Day of judgement looms for DNA

The Australian Domain Authority (auDA) is in the process of launching a class action lawsuit against Domain Names Australia (DNA) and its sole director, Chesley Paul Rafferty, alleging the reseller has sent unsolicited mail-outs that are deceptive and misleading, and in breach of the Trade Practices Act.

The mail-outs in question are ostensibly domain name registration application letters, that strongly resemble invoices or registration renewal notices, auDA CEO, Chris Disspain, said.

“The mail-outs look like invoices; they imply an existing business relationship and could easily be construed as renewal notices for existing services instead of a new one,” he said.

This is not the first time the auDA has accused Rafferty, also the director of Internet Registry, of issuing misleading domain name registration letters. Last year, the auDA threatened to take Rafferty’s other domain name company, Internet Registry, to launch a class action for sending out similar misleading letters.

Rafferty, however, agreed to refund disgruntled customers that were misled into purchasing a domain name.

By June 2003 however, Rafferty was up to his old tricks, this time approving similar letters be sent for his business DNA. The auDA once again received a flood of complaints from recipients and in July decided to launch a class action against the director and his company.

The auDA’s case against DNA was delayed, however, when the ACCC requested DNA slow down its proceedings as they were investigating the action. The ACCC then appeared to abandon its case against DNA.

“We slowed down the action because the ACCC asked us. They were looking at it and were concerned our action might negatively impact on their work. The ACCC then ceased communicating with us. I don’t know why, but the end in communications did coincide with the appointment of the new head of the ACCC,” Disspain said.

ARN asked Disspain if the auDA sought a consent order from Rafferty that would see DNA refund misled custromers. He replied: “If we’d been able to secure refunds from the customers, we wouldn’t be launching the class action against DNA.”

The auDA’s campaign against DNA met a minor set back on Monday, when it lodged an application with the Court for an interlocutory (or temporary) injunction restraining DNA from using the funds it receives as a result of the mail out. Justice Finkelstein declined the application because he said there was insufficient evidence to show that the proceeds were likely to disappear.

However Disspain said he was encouraged by some of the remarks the Judge made during the hearing which will be available to the public over the next couple of days.

Disspain said he expect the class action to go before the Court in the next couple of months. In the meantime, the auDA will be posting advertisements encouraging other people who were duped into buying domain name registrations to become a part of the class action.

DNA was unable to respond to ARN's enquiries before time of press.

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