back to article 123-Reg is at it again: Registrar charges chap for domains he didn’t order – and didn't want

Two months after promising customers that its past practices of automatically registering, and billing, folks for .uk domains was all a big misunderstanding, pushy registrar 123-Reg is at it again – charging at least one punter for .uk domains they never ordered and don’t want. A Register reader noticed last month that he was …

  1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

    Credit card

    If he's paid by credit card, they will nearly always cancel the payment if you complain.

    Actually, even PayPal will -- the mechanism for various paypal frauds.

    1. Chris Hills

      Re: Credit card

      Is it possible to do that on an expired card?

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Credit card

        Yes, it should be. Expired card != account closed and wiped. The consumer credit act doesn’t cease to apply.

        If enough customers report 123 Reg for credit card fraud, transactions with them will start getting tagged as being of interest to CC company fraud departments. That might mean that legitimate transactions start getting blocked. So this might start impacting customers who haven’t yet been dinged by these spurious domain screw ups.

        So if you’re a 123Reg customer, you need to keep a close eye on renewals, make sure they’re actually paid for.

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: Credit card

          If you are a 123Reg customer, you need to find another registrar that is not part of the GoDaddy empire.

          1. deive

            Re: Credit card

            Someone else on these hallowed boards recommended https://www.mythic-beasts.com/ (can't remember who, soz)

            I've just moved to them from 123-reg, so far I am very happy!

            1. Raithmir

              Re: Credit card

              I have some stuff hosted with Mythic Beasts and have had no issue with them. All my domains are registered with LCN and have been for over 15 years.

          2. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

            Re: Credit card

            I've gone to njalla. Free and with the privacy stuff built in. No complaints so far, except that it doesn't do .uk domains - which is fine as I've got rid of them all anyway.

  2. Andrew Jones 2

    It's probably worth thinking about moving anyway. Their accounts with companies house are overdue, and they even had a first strike off notice issued. It's been cancelled now, but their accounts are still 3 months overdue. This typically it's the sign of a company in financial trouble.

    1. mr-slappy

      If 123-Reg is possibly going to go bust I would strongly urge anyone using them to move away now.

      Many years ago I had my main domain with a company that suddenly stopped responding to all attempts at contact. In despair I eventually contacted Nominet, the .uk registrar, and went through a slow and anxiety-making process to get my domain released.

      I know they get a lot of flak but Nominet were very helpful, and they had to make absolutely sure that I really did own the domain before they could transfer it. Thankfully it was eventually sorted. Phew!

      If anyone is looking for alternatives I would highly recommend Zen. (I have no connections with Zen other than as a happy customer.)

  3. leadyrob
    Facepalm

    123-Reg customer records are just broken

    I think it's fair to say that 123-Reg's customer records are just broken.

    Back in September 2017, after they increased their prices massively, I shifted all my services over to Mythic Beasts and cancelled my 123-Reg account.

    Cue September 2019 and I get warning emails from 123-Reg claiming the services that they no longer host are at risk, and I need to pay them £150 to renew.

    Unsurprisingly, no response to any correspondence with 123-Reg.

    It's a good job my credit card had expired in those two years !

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: 123-Reg customer records are just broken

      It's a good job my credit card had expired

      Don't count on that sorting everything. A few years ago someone skimmed my debit card and set up a small Continuous Card Authorisation (Netflix, IIRC). My bank spotted a large unusual payment (online shop) and alerted me, so we cancelled the card, but the CCA carried forward to the new card and I didn't notice until some weeks later when checking a bank statement.

      I didn't have any other CCAs on the card, but apparently this is normal practice.

      M.

  4. jeffty

    I had the same experience with 123-reg.

    .UK domains added to my list, all of them set to auto-renew. After reading on here about it I decided to leave their status as is up until a week before they were due just to see what would happen. They were never removed from the auto-renew list, 123-reg didn't send out any further communications to customers. No apologies, no corrections, no clarifications. Just a series of automated emails telling me that the .uk domains were due for renewal (and the cost of doing so).

    I removed them all from the list myself, I have no problem with registrars offering discounts on new TLDs, that's their line of business and it's fair enough. Auto-assigning a TLD you didn't ask for and then setting it to automatically draw payment is shady though, I've removed all of my .uks and won't be paying for any through 123-reg. If they'd behaved differently I might have grabbed a couple of them.

    Only reason I'm still with 123 is because I use them purely as a registrar, and we host everything else...

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: I had the same experience with 123-reg.

      Only reason I'm still with 123 is because I use them purely as a registrar, and we host everything else..

      Isn't that an even better reason to move? You could transfer the domains to another registrar with no downtime, and it would probably take an hour max.

      1. jeffty

        Re: I had the same experience with 123-reg.

        Yep, you're completely right. I'm staying out of laziness more than anything else. If I'd been stung for unwanted domains like the gent in this article I'd probably be more determined to move everything over.

        Any recommendations? Never moved registrars before...

        1. proinnsias

          Re: I had the same experience with 123-reg.

          Blacknight (dot com)

          All day long ... small outfit - honest, and have an actual phone number you can use if it comes to it

          1. jeffty

            Re: I had the same experience with 123-reg.

            Cheers, I'll check them out.

        2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: I had the same experience with 123-reg.

          I've used http://gkg.net/ for about 20 years with no issue, but I must admit I haven't checked them for value for money lately.

          When I got uk domains (gkg.net didn't do them), I just went for the cheapest I could find (I too only use the registration services, so the quality of their support/hardware is irrelevent to me) - I went with http://www.crazydomains.co.uk/ which were the cheapest at the time (about 4 or 5 years ago). I've had no issues with them, and even had prompt and knowledgable support when I had a query. I don't think they support DNSSEC for some stupid reason, so that may be a dealbreaker.

          As for the cost of moving, you basically pay for at least one new year with the new registrar for the domain, and this time is added onto the time the domain already has to live, so ultimately, it doesn't cost anything to move.

          By the way, I wasn't one of the miserable sods who downvoted you!

        3. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: I had the same experience with 123-reg.

          I moved to OVH, mainly because they have an api that works with letsencrypt dns validation. Not had any problems with them.

        4. Claverhouse Silver badge

          Re: I had the same experience with 123-reg.

          I've been with NameAlerts, an American firm with a very simple, very un-noisy, site for about 15 years. There was a problem with a hijacker many years ago [ forum stuff, after wrestling ICANN I then moved that particular domain to the hosts --- which one should never do; but this is UrlJet who are awesome ] and I have have no complaints or fault to find with NameAlerts since.

          Truly excellent.

          https://www.namealerts.com/

        5. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: I had the same experience with 123-reg.

          Mythic Beasts? The Raspberry Pi people use them and do lots of exciting things with them so they can't be awful.

          I have a couple of domains registered and DNSsed with them and they've been ok so far.

          M.

      2. Mike 16 Silver badge

        Re: I had the same experience with 123-reg.

        --- You could transfer the domains to another registrar with no downtime, and it would probably take an hour max. ---

        Not if they are indeed part of GoDaddy. It took several hours (and chat, email, voice calls) when I moved off them a decade or so ago. And they still send me email once a year or so about how my (nonexistent) account has been suspended because they were unable to charge my (expired) CC.

        Just say NoDaddy.

        I'm now using DreamHost for domain registration and (light use) hosting. I have no idea if they are best, but they seem adequate, and not being GoDaddy feels like a major benefit.

  5. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Devil

    New name?

    666-Reg

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: New name?

      I think the devil has more style than this kind of incompetent bungling

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Devil

        Re: New name?

        I have my bad days too. Like anyone else.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: New name?

      Or they could become a subsidiary of Wells Fargo...

  6. quxinot Silver badge

    Repetitive much?

    I think this article wins the award for repeating itself the most number of times on the Reg this year.

    I hope the author wasn't paid by the word! This could have been two paragraphs long. The only reason to repeat yourself that many times is if you're trying to hit a minimum article length.... or if you assume your readers aren't bright enough to get it the first time. Yick.

    1. kierenmccarthy

      Re: Repetitive much?

      It is a little repetitious but unfortunately that was necessary because of 123-Reg’s responses.

      It has repeatedly drawn a distinction between customers being told they will be charged and them actually being charged. And it continues to rely on that distinction to explain its actions.

      As such, we felt obliged to point out that under every scenario that 123-Reg has outlined, it is still (wrongly) taking money.

      It doesn’t make for as snappy copy but it does make it plain what’s going on.

      Kieren

  7. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Did these people actually READ their own statement?

    "the customer was not charged and it appears to be an isolated incident."

    is largely equivalent to, "we didn't do it and anyway, we only did it once". Basic logic has gone AWOL

    1. steven_t

      Re: Did these people actually READ their own statement?

      No, I think it means: "We didn't rip off this customer, but that was an oversight - we did it to everyone else"

    2. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change Bronze badge

      Re: Did these people actually READ their own statement?

      That's so nonsensical as to smell of careless editorial snips somewhere between source and reader.

      At least, that was my reaction as I read it.

  8. sbt Silver badge
    Facepalm

    a complete dog's breakfast

    This shower of clowns make a dog's breakfast look like a 10-course silver-service degustation.

    Very suspicious that the "innocent" mistakes always seem to end-up to the benefit of the mistaken.

    1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change Bronze badge

      Re: a complete dog's breakfast

      Does this comment assume all dogs should be poverty-stricken?

      Very suspicious that the "innocent" mistakes always seem to end-up to the benefit of the mistaken.

      There's a perfectly good reason for that. The customer seeing a mistake in his own favour is much less likely to take the trouble to complain about it.

  9. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Life's too short

    I'm not with 1.2.3. , but if I was, the very next thing I'd do after posting this is move my domains elsewhere.

    Life's too short to have to spend time checking you're not being conned when there are other options out there.

  10. Lee D Silver badge

    If they can't even get charging money right, what chance in hell do they have of operating your domain reliably?

    Don't deal with companies that a) refuse to take your money or b) take your money without asking.

    Literally, if they can't manage the basics of business, don't trust them with anything more complicated... like providing a service to you.

    And, yes, I have literally had companies refuse to take my money. One ISP who turned off a private school's ADSL lines because "they used more traffic than a normal household" (despite being clearly marketed as a business line and the equipment having been installed by said ISP!) was literally told "Money is no object, we need this connection back on, how much to lift your entirely arbitrary traffic limit, even just for today?" and they said that they couldn't.

    Their money instead went on a bunch of 3G sticks (best thing available at the time) to tide us over and then we paid 10 times as much each month for a leased line from another company and cut them off. I mean... how stupid can you be, doing business like that?

  11. BoldMan

    "Customers of 123-Reg..."

    Why does 123-Reg still have customers? This shower of shite should not have any customers left after their ongoing incompetence!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why does 123-Reg still have customers?

      Perhaps they're not customers in the normal sense of the word, rather they're just people who haven't been able to stop 123-Reg taking money off of them.

  12. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    A "convenient" mistake - in the hope that nobody checks their CC statements closely enough... and long enough to make some extra income...

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Hopefully 123-Reg will also make the mistake of not doing enough in rectifying their so-called mistakes that one or more of their customers can drag them into court where their lying will only hurt them more.

  13. MrKrotos

    Utter shit-show of a company

    If you are still using 123-SCAM then I would simply say MOVE all your services out ASAP!

    They are a shit-show of a mess and getting worse!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Utter shit-show of a company

      Any recommendations on where to move to?

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Utter shit-show of a company

        I moved to OVH, from Hurley Internet who are another outpost of the GoDaddy empire.

  14. MJI Silver badge

    Hard work

    To remove. Also got rid of the .org.uk as well as never used.

    My web hosting is recently renewed but will consider moving when next expired.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. crishog

    123Reg set a new domain to auto-renew, even the bundle of .uk domains I didn't ask for. I turned them off, but still got a flood of emails telling me "your products are at risk"

    In the past they have automatically renewed domains a week or so before their expiry dates "to ensure continuity", including ones which my clients were in the process of telling me that they no longer needed. Often for an arbitrary number of years or one picked to maximise revenue, why else is one domain renewed for a year, another two and yet others 3 or even 5 years?

    I asked to remove my credit card details, but apparently that is impossible. I let my card expire, but they continued to try to take money from the card.

    I switched to using PayPal to renew the domains, but every time I do so they start up a recurring payment instruction on PayPal - so I have a second tab open in my browser & cancel that the moment they craete it.

    A greedy organisation

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      >123Reg set a new domain to auto-renew

      But not on ALL customers. A friends business oversees circa 70 businesses domain registrations on 123reg and they've not reported encountering any .uk domains assigned to these businesses auto-renewing. Which would tend to suggest the problem probably arose in some batches of .uk domain registration and assignment to .co.uk customers..

  16. Jan 0 Silver badge

    Uh oh, Easily too?

    Although Easily is not part of the GoDaddy empire and I've not had any problems with them, it seems that 96% of Trustpilot respondents rate them in much the same way as 123-Reg. Should I hope that Easily won't wreck my .org registration in the remaining two years (I got a really good 5 year rate from them), or should I move now, before they shaft me?

  17. Rick802

    123

    2 years I told 123 reg to cancel all services and they did, I didn't hear nothing else until last month, when they out of the blue renewed and billed me again. Managed to get full refund though, glad I noticed the charge.

  18. clyde666

    There's charging and there's charging

    There's a difference between "charging" the customer - aka invoicing, and then "charging" - aka taking payment by card or paypal.

    I have long since transferred away all my .co.uk domains from this nefarious shower. There was one .uk domain I couldn't transfer. It was a .ltd.uk and somehow the transfer got messed up. I just let it expire and forgot about it. And recently let a .org.uk expire as well.

    One important point - I made a point of cancelling all payment methods on record with them, card, paypal, maybe direct debit (can't remember if that one existed). That was not straightforward though either.

    Of course they've been sending mountains of emails about "my" various .uk domains, which I just ignore. And then loads of reminders and warnings from Nominet for the same. All getting ignored.

  19. VinceH

    "So if you're a 123-Reg customer, please check your records to make sure you aren't an unwilling owner of an unwanted domain. If you are, please let us know. ®"

    I'm not a customer, but I know one of my clients is - his company's domain is registered through them, with the web hosting managed by one company, and email through me. I've just looked on Nominet's WHOIS and I can see that the .uk equivalent of his .co.uk is marked as registered via 123-Reg - registered October 2017, with a renewal date of October 2024. I'll get him to check his account when I next speak to him.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Move away TODAY, it's easy and saves money

    There are other problems with 123reg as regularly featured on The Register, but in regard to the bare .uk names...

    Firstly, having moved my .co.uk names away from and finding 123reg had reserved the bare .uk variants for me I had difficulty moving those bare .uk names I wanted to keep to other registrars. Some went OK but others repeatedly errored when I tried to change the IPS TAG. (I managed it in the end by using a different route.)

    Secondly, I look after hundreds of names for other people, a few of those have moved their .co.uk elsewhere. I use my email as the contact address (that was because, before the WhoIs service was closed down, the contact address would be public and would attract scams and spam which would have tricked some of my clients into "inappropriate" actions). When 123reg registered the corresponding bare .uk they just cloned all the owner details. That means that, when 123reg send emails concerning the status of the bare .uk names for which I no longer manage the corresponding .co.uk variant, they come to me. I don't feel any obligation to a former customer who has chosen to stop doing business with me, those emails go into trash. Those names will lapse and will return to the open market.

    Third. What the registrars like 123reg have done by registering the bare .uk names is increase their value to extortionists, see https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/11/22/nominet_dispute_resolution_dot_uk_company_domains/. If the offer to renew the name in subsequent years is not taken up then the name will be allowed to lapse. My understanding of what happens next is that there are systems set up to catch names as they lapse and the valuable ones auctioned off. If a bare .uk name had never been registered it would never get onto those lists and would never come to the attention of those potential buyers.

    Finally I have found that most business owners simply don't understand the issue "I've got joes-antiques-emporium.co.uk, why should I buy joes-antiques-emporium.uk?". There's no simple one-size-fits-all answer. I make an effort to explain the pros and cons to my clients. I want them to make an educated decision. Nominet and most registrars have a vested interest (£) in flogging the variant, needed or not. My advice to Joe would be to point out that the risks in respect of that name are far less than for names fitting my criteria for a valuable name: short, meaningful, single dictionary word or proper noun, no hyphens. It's only £6 a year inc VAT (or £12 at 123reg) but for a zero ROI and it's hard to believe a third party would find joes-antiques-emporium.uk attractive, most likely an extortionist. In the other hand if Tesco were my client (they're not!) I'd want to be sure they did secure tesco.uk

    I moved all my names away from 123reg (many to purely.domains for half what 123reg charge for uk name renewals but the purely.domains control panel is a bit limited so I use it for names with simple requirements, for most others I pay a bit more and use LCN).

    Do move, with hundreds of names it was a big job for me so I just spent a few hours each month shifting those due to renew the following month but saved over £1000 of my annual total renewals bills as a result. BUT make sure you don't just move to another part of the GoDaddy empire which owns 123reg. The hard part is that GoDaddy are in the business of acquiring smaller providers so your chosen provider might get gobbled up next week, next year...

    I flagged all remaining names at 123reg as not to renew and deleted my payment mechanisms. I still hear from them every month when they invoice me £0 for the free backup service they provided in connection with a hosting service, seconds later I get "We have successfully received payment for invoice #..." so, yes I suspect their customer billing system is "flawed"!

    Strictly that invoice now comes from a different part of the same group, TSOhost, as the result of a long history of mergers and re-organisations. (My understanding of the history is imperfect but something like: I leased a server from a provider that got gobbled up by WebFusion which in turn got bought by 123reg, when the parent group holding 123reg acquired TSO they migrated the hosted servers to TSO).

  21. David McCarthy

    Not just 123reg but also LCN (though not on auto-renew)

    I've been passed an email by a client who has a .co.uk registered with LCN ... the email encourages him to renew the .uk version of the domain or " ... all associated services on your domain name will stop working."

    He doesn't have any services associated with the domain, but the tone of the email could easily spook non tech people into renewing. Not good.

    Personally wouldn't touch LCN (domains or hosting) with a barge pole.

    1. Richard Cranium

      Re: Not just 123reg but also LCN (though not on auto-renew)

      I'd not call out any single registrar on the free .uk registrations. As far as I can see many (most?) did it and probably better than letting the names go onto the open market by accident.

      Frankly, many small business owners are too busy doing whatever their business does and disinclined to try to get their heads round what seems to them to be an obscure technical issue, they need advice from someone a bit more clued up but that too could imply time and money.

      The free first year was a gentle shove to say: we take the issue seriously, we think you should too. If that didn't work then maybe scare tactics are a valid way to prod the client into making a decision. Of course auto-renewal by inertia, seemingly what some registrars have tried, is not acceptable.

      In some cases the downside risk is possibly needing to pay Nominet DRS £750 (or worse) making even the rather steep £12 p.a. at 123reg worthwhile. For many that annual fee is money down the drain, for Nominet it's the gift that keeps on giving.

      In my opinion Nominet are the real bad-actor in the whole scenario. The cost to them of allocating the .uk name to the corresponding existing .co.uk name registrant could easily be absorbed. In future registrants of _new_ names could choose to buy uk, co.uk or both. Existing owners of both could be free to sell one variant at which point the new registrant would start paying annual renewals.

      The easy option is "pay up", a little smarter is a quick risk benefit analysis. The risky choice is to do nothing, the risk may be trivial but I've seen some valuable lapsed .uk names being auctioned by drop-catchers for substantial prices.

  22. Gaborka

    unwanted .uk domain

    Upon reading this article I checked my 123Reg account. I do own the .me.uk account and I noticed they have added the unwanted .uk as they did to many other people. They have charged me in October for the auto renewal which I never requested (they must have set it to auto renew themselves).

    At the time I thought this was a renewal for my correct .me.uk account so never really checked.

    I now contacted Customer Support who said the Money Back Guarantee was only for the month of the payment so they can't refund me.

    Any advice?

  23. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    To stop being atutomatically charged by these idiots, set Paypal as your only payment method and then disable that specific pre-approved payment in Paypal.

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