The company responsible for operating the .au domain, .au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA) has started a class action against Domain Names Australia (DNA) for allegedly misleading the recipients of a mass mail-out.
According to auDA, on the weekend of August 23 and 24, 2003, DNA mailed more than 400,000 letters headed "Domain Name Registration" to businesses, schools, government agencies, individuals and other organisations in Australia offering to "facilitate" a domain name registration on their behalf.
The auDA alleges that the mail-outs which "were misleading or deceptive, or likely to mislead or deceive", were in breach of the Trade Practices Act (TPA).
The mailout offers a two-year licence for a domain name at a cost of $237 but auDA warns the letter is not an invoice as the DNA is not an auDA-accredited registrar or an appointed reseller.
According to auDA, a two-year licence for a domain name generally costs under $100.
"AuDA has issued legal proceedings against DNA and its director Chesley Rafferty under the Trade Practices Act. These proceedings are a class action seeking refunds and damages on behalf of those members of the public who have been misled by the letter from DNA and made payments to DNA pursuant to the letter," the auDA statement said.
A statement issued by Phillips Fox Lawyers, on behalf of its client DNA, said that DNA and its director, Chesley Rafferty will be "strongly defending the proceedings" and denies breaching the Trade Practices Act.
The DNA statement said that during a directions hearing at the Federal Court on August 27, 2003, "the Court directed the parties to confer, to attempt to agree on a framework in which auDA could notify consumers allegedly effected by DNA's conduct".
However, according to Rafferty, the auDA has "completely ignored this direction from the court" and "rather than using the appropriate channels", has "jumped the gun and attempted to act outside the Court's processes".
Rafferty said, "This is even more alarming when you consider that auDA is not even able to tell us precisely what their claim is or what they allege we have done wrong."
The DNA also believes that its defence of the proceedings was "supported by preliminary comments made by the Federal Court Judge that heard auDA's failed application for a temporary injunction" on August 27, 2003.
"During the hearing, Justice Finkelstein observed that some of the claims brought by auDA in its court documents were 'hopeless'," the DNA statement said.
Rafferty said that if auDA had "any legitimate concerns regarding the notices that we have sent to businesses, then they should tell us precisely what they are so we can act on them".
"We have invited auDA to detail their problems with our documents and they haven't responded," Rafferty said.
Concerned Web site owners can contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on 1300 302 502