Internet domain letter creates confusion

Australian business are once again being subjected to a domain registration mailout that may be deemed misleading and confusing to consumers, the .au Domain Administration (auDA) has warned.

Domain Names Australia Pty Ltd (DNA) is sending letters and faxes to some domain name registrants regarding the net.au version of their .au domain. For example, customers with yourdomain.com.au are being sent letters from DNA telling them they will facilitate the registration of yourdomain.net.au

Another letter suggests domain name registrants register .com, .biz and .info domains.

auDA CEO Chris Disspain said the letters looks like an invoice and implies a prior business relationship between Domain Names Australia and recipients of the letter. "Some people in a state of confusion may recognise this to be an invoice," he said. Consequently, this communication could be misleading or deceptive. "This is not acceptable," he added.

One such customer to receive a letter is John French from WA-based Hinco Instruments. He said Hinco's Web site, www.hinco.com.au, is registered with another domain name registrar until October 2003. However, last week it received an invoice from DNA for registration of www.hinco.net.au.

French said when he first received the notice he thought it was another "rip-off".

"I feel it has been composed to shock people into thinking 'oops, need to pay that or else'."

French said he was going to ignore the letter.

According to an auDA alert that was issued last week on the matter, DNA is a company controlled by Chesley Rafferty, who is also a director of Internet Registry Pty Ltd. In 2002 auDA took legal action against Rafferty and Internet Registry alleging it engaged in conduct which was misleading or deceptive and in breach of the Trade Practices Act.

Following this proceeding Rafferty gave several undertakings in the Federal Court. According to Disspain, this latest mailout by DNA is in breach of some of Rafferty's undertakings.

Disspain said he was encouraged by the number of complaints received by auDA. He said the level of understanding in the wider registrant community has increased. However, "this does not excuse the inconvenience that people have been put through," he remarked.

Comment from DNA about auDA's concerns was unavailable at the time of posting.

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Howard Dahdah

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