Domain scams roll on, defying authorities

While the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Domain Authority (auDA) have made some progress in stamping out unscrupulous domain name resellers, many continue to show a blatant disregard for the authorities.

After several slaps on the wrist by auDA, domain name resellers are rising again under new operating names and getting up to the same old tricks.

Internet Registry Pty Ltd, a company that traded under the name “NetRegister” until very recently, has been warned several times by auDA over its business practices. After being warned in July, Internet Registry agreed to not send out false and misleading material that appears to be an invoice, represents the company as an authorised registrar of domain names, or charges unreasonable amounts for domain name renewals.

The company was also asked to send out an e-mail to customers that had been duped by the scheme to apologise and offer remediation.

“Internet Registry would like to apologise and offer clarification of a mail out that was sent to you on the 25th June 2002,” the e-mail said. “auDA feels that certain elements of the mailer are misleading and Internet Registry seeks to clarify any confusion that could have occurred to our clients.”

In September, auDA grew impatient with the company and its director Paul Chesley Rafferty, filing Federal Court proceedings and accusing the company of engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct, a breach of the Trade Practices Act.

Similar action has been or is in the process of being taken by auDA and the ACCC against the likes of Internet Registrations Australia and Internet Names Group. The tangled mess of companies that make up these resellers are often connected through former employees and current directors.

Internet Registry Pty Ltd has now changed its name from NetRegister to WebRegister, mainly to avoid litigation from NetRegistry, an accredited registrar.

In recent weeks, the company has also launched a new business, called Domain Names Australia. Its Web site contains the same features and could generally be considered a re-branded copy of the WebRegister site, and its contact details are also the same.

An employee at Domain Names Australia told ARN that the company only differs to WebRegister in that Rohan Jayasuriya, rather than Chesley Rafferty, is the director. “It’s directed by a different person but it is basically the same business,” the staff member said.

ARN has received a letter from Domain Names Australia, which continues to include the same misleading features that the Internet Registry Pty Ltd/NetRegister business is being disciplined over. auDA CEO Chris Disspain is overseas at the moment. According to staff at auDA’s office, no other member of the organisation is permitted to discuss the matter with the press.

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