Rogue domain registrar to challenge regulator again

A Canberra-based domain registrar with a trail of angry customers will take the domain regulator back to court in November to contest the extent of its powers.

Capital Networks, holding company of registrar TotalNIC, will appeal a June decision that upheld the Australian Domain Administration's (auDA) right to request documents on TotalNIC's generic top level domain (gTLD) operations.

AuDA requested the documents after receiving complaints from TotalNIC customers around the world that gTLD domains could not be transferred from the registrar, and were "locked in".

AuDA has authority only over the .au domain space. However, the regulator asked TotalNIC for gTLD business documents as it believed those operations were bringing its .au accreditation into disrepute.

Capital Networks then took court action to thwart auDA's request, but lost.

Should the appeal uphold the court's earlier decision, TotalNIC looks likely to lose its .au accreditation.

If the ruling is overturned however, TotalNIC gTLD operations may break free of auDA's influence.

TotalNIC's Web site recently claimed the company's gTLD operations had been acquired by Pacnames.

"We know nothing about Pacnames," auDA chief executive Chris Disspain said.

"From our point of view, the business has been split into a US or New Zealand company.

"What it does in that respect is not our business," he said.

"If they're not an Australia-based company, they're out of our jurisdiction."

The new-look site offers a new transfer process, but customers contacted by PC World said this didn't work.

Disspain said TotalNIC customers would have to complain to the equivalent of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in the country where Pacnames was registered.

He admitted the chance of an issue being resolved in such a way was "pretty slim".

However in Australia, the ACCC and State fair trading offices dealt with companies like TotalNIC every day, he said.

The ACCC has refused to comment on the issue other than saying it's "still investigating".

ICANN will introduce a complaints handling mechanism to its Web site in the near future to deal with complaints of this nature, according to Disspain.

AuDA will continue with its review of TotalNIC's status as a .au accredited registrar once the appeal has been heard, Disspain said.

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Steven Deare

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