back to article Whose side you on, Nominet? Registry floods .co.uk owners with begging emails to renew unwanted .uk domains

Dot-uk registry operator Nominet has again crossed the line from industry overseer to champion for the registrars that sell .uk domains, warning Brits they should pay to renew names they never ordered and didn't want. Tens of thousands of owners of .co.uk domains this month have received an email from the organization, based …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this Fraud?

    Just asking.

    1. Saruman the White

      Re: Is this Fraud?

      It certainly seems pretty close to it at first glance. Registering a .uk on behalf of a third party without their explicit permission, then sending out letters demanding money to renew the unwanted domains is definitely something that the police might get interested in, particularly if enough people/companies complained. In fact if the amount of money heading into their coffers is enough, it could bring the SFO into play.

      1. iron Silver badge

        Re: Is this Fraud?

        Sounds like extortion to me. And conspiring with registrars to commit extortion.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Is this Fraud?

          Sounds like extortion to me. And conspiring with registrars to commit extortion.

          Yup. I'd also be curious if customers could challenge under IP law. So suppose I'm trademark.co.uk then extorting trademark owners to pay for trademark.uk would seem rather shady. And suggesting that trademark owners need to pay up to avoid cybersquatters would seem clear extortion, when if anyone else tries to register that trademark domain would seem a clear abuse of that trademark.. And Nominet would be complicit given the emails, and it's dispute resolution process that 'protects' IP owners.

          I suspect that a big brand would have a fairly easy time winning a judgement that any cybersquatter should relinquish brand domains.. And then raise the question of dosh, ie why trademark owners would be expected to pay more, when legally (I think), they're the only entity that can exploit that brand.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Is this Fraud?

            What happens if someone decides to create a new trademark with the domain of trademark.co.uk - and pleb Joe Bloggs already owns the coincidental trademark.uk domain?

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: Is this Fraud?

              What happens if someone decides to create a new trademark with the domain of trademark.co.uk - and pleb Joe Bloggs already owns the coincidental trademark.uk domain?

              Somewhere on the Internet, lawyers start their clocks. Not being one.. Dunno. But AFAIK if I already own the trademark, and Nominet's sent me a letter saying I need to pay for a new .uk domain to prevent cybersquatting.. That seems like extortion. Ok, I think it gets more complicated, ie same name, suitably different industries. But rather than waste time/money going through Nominet's dispute process, seems simpler just to send a letter putting them on notice that it's your trademark.

              But needs lawyers. And if they win that one, there's also credit agencies. Seeing as it's an offence to hold/process incorrect personal data, why do they try to charge the person? Surely it's in their interests to make sure the data they hold is accurate to avoid large fines.

        2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: Is this Fraud?

          Protection racket.

          Nice .co.uk domain you got there. Be a shame if someone cyber-squatted the equivalent .uk name, ruined your image/reputation/business...

    2. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Re: Is this Fraud?

      The first, maybe the second and possibly the third being blamed on a "mistake" then maybe. But carrying on and on and on in the full knowledge then yes, that is fraud, pure and simple. The sooner someone takes out a prosecution the better.

    3. N2 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Is this Fraud?

      It most certainly is fraud in my opinion, but only if you committed the dirty act.

      Whilst Nominet are completely beyond reproach and such scummy tactics to drum up business harvested from the green slime of DROA & DROE, are of course perfectly acceptable, they wear suits and nice shoes don't you know?

      Icon, because that is what Nominet need.

    4. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Is this Fraud?

      It's what I would refer to as "an interesting Sunday afternoon spent sending a letter by recorded delivery".

      Go on, Nominet. Try it. Because I will do what others don't have the time to do and report it as an unfair/misleading/fraudulent business practice.

      It'll cost you far more than you'd ever make from me to respond to me, and I won't stop just because you reply saying sorry.

      Literally, I'm in need of some entertainment at the moment. Do it. Send me the email. See what happens. Just *try* to imply that I'm somehow needed to pay you for that domain, that I have ownership of that domain, or that if I don't "renew" I'll lose something I had before.

      This is no different to just sending someone a letter and telling them that if they don't pay £30 they'll subscription will expire, when literally there has never been any such subscription in existence. Just because I own *another* domain name does not mean you can talk to me about one I don't own as if I did.

      And, maybe, if this is really your business practice now, you should seriously review why you can't make money from millions of people owning UK domain names and paying you every year, when all you have to do is run a bunch of NS for them. And why you think that tricking your customers into buying something they never wanted on the basis of confusion and fraud is a good way to do business.

  2. Teiwaz Silver badge

    What happened to checks and balances?

    It's disheartening to see it so easily turned to cheques and bank balances.

  3. jake Silver badge

    The various registries, world-wide ...

    ... are playing fast and loose with domains, the very life-blood of the Internet, and so what are the folks in the technical world upset about? The use of master and slave as technical terms, of course. Makes perfect sense. Not.

    Insert something pithy about fiddling about while something important burns to the ground ...

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: The various registries, world-wide ...

      My registrar (1and1 / Ionos) seems to have been reasonably decent about this, thankfully - they sent me an email 10 days ago saying I'd get an email from Nominet but that, despite the confusing language (reading between the lines a bit), it would only be about the .uk address, and my .co.uk's were unaffected

  4. nil0

    I used to pay...

    ...about £2.50 for each of my .co.uk domains 10 years ago.

    Now I seem to pay about £16 - (a) because I have to pay for the .co.uk (it's the one people have bookmarked, so can't get rid of it), and the .uk (don't want someone else sitting on it), and (b) because every registrar I move to gets acquired by one of the big rip-off registrars I was avoiding and the prices ramp up every single sodding time.

    Pah.

    1. Martin J Hooper

      Re: I used to pay...

      https://www.34sp.com/domain-names

      £7.95 per year for .co.uk and you can transfer your current .co.uk for free...

      Host with them with no problems at all... No problems to change it to your current hosting...,

      1. nil0

        Re: I used to pay...

        Er, yes. £7.95 for a .co.uk plus £7.95 for the matching .uk hits the "about £16" mark I'm moaning about, wouldn't you say?

        1. Richard Cranium

          Re: I used to pay...

          FWIW I'm paying £6 inc VAT for uk names at purely.domains, while I grumble at that (mostly at the slice Nominet take for doing bugger all other than run a database rather badly and pay themselves very generously), at least it's less than .com (I get those for under £10 somewhere else).

          My advice to clients in respect of .uk is:

          If it's the equivalent of the .co.uk name you use, keep it

          If the .co.uk name is just held defensively (i.e. not used for anything, web, email or other) then consider how valuable that name is and consider dropping that and the .uk

          When I say "consider how valuable" best names are short, no hyphens, single word, dictionary word, noun.

          So I'm finding names like mikes-dodgy-second-hand-motors.co.uk and the .uk equivalent both being dropped, especially where the client bought loads of variants defensively years ago. The risk of abusive registrations seems to be far less than people thought 20 years ago.

          On the other hand some just take the attitude that it's only a few quid...

          I also advise not to use the .uk variant at all, just leave it parked with the registrar, keeping it solely to prevent anyone else buying it. If it gets "known" then if you decide to cancel in years to come then you risk your customers seeing a dead link or rejected email and may decide you've gone bust. But also I think most people recognise .co.uk as "legitimate" and may be unsure of .uk

          Best thing Nominet could (should) do is charge a nominal amount for the variant if the client owns both.

          The other thing Nominet could do to increase the value of .uk is very actively police registrations with strict T&C as to usage and limit ownership to genuine UK organisations (or persons). IIRC The Register recently reported bulk buying of lapsed .uk names by overseas speculators.

          Nominet have the registry as a gift of the UK government, it's time government demanded better or put uk name management out to tender.

    2. chuBb. Bronze badge

      Re: I used to pay...

      I just became a reseller to avoid this chod, enom.com provides my registrar services, and provides the registrar services for most of the remaining uk isps that 1and1 or gimpdaddy hasnt gobbled up, if thats too much hassle, have nothing bad to say about netcetera as either an isp or a registrar

    3. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: I used to pay...

      I'm afraid your problem is really one of thinking that your customers are somehow going to go to the wrong domain when I very much doubt they even know what the right domain is anyway. People don't use domain names like that any more, they just hit a Google or other link and find you, then bookmark it.

      There are literally so many other domains out there that I can't guess what most places would use at first attempt, even when I know their business or website inside-out. There are companies whose official name is .uk.com, personal users on .co.uk, and huge companies on .net and other TLDs. Hell, the whole .eu debacle should show you what a waste of time it is - companies went mad to snap them up and now if they were British they have to forfeit them anyway, and someone else can have them.

      My old workplace did this for about 10 years, trying to buy up every related domain, and they soon realised that the "wrong" domains just sat unused for years (because it would have been incredibly simple to prove they were passing-off on the basis of the actual name, no matter the TLD), and people were literally registered more deliberately and then telling that place, in the expectation that we'd buy their domain too.

      It got stupid, and a stop was put to it, and now they have one domain and that's it. They get far more hassle from other random, unrelated companies doing things like putting their opening hours on generic "opening hours dot com" websites, getting them completely wrong (in some cases just making them up), and then when customers google what the opening hours are for your company they somehow think that random-website-on-the-other-side-of-the-world knows better than the actual, main company website. And when you contact those pages to demand removal or correction, they want to charge you to do so.

      Buy a domain. Stick with it. To my knowledge, I've never knowingly typed in a .uk (without a "co" or something before it) or a .hotel or a .travel or a .anything - I may have clicked on a link to them or been redirected to them, but I've never typed them in or tried to remember them.

      And any website that's passing off as you? They could do it on a billion similarly-named domains, including the unicode tricks to look like normal characters that look almost identical. The problem there is fraud in claiming to be you, not what name they actually host under. They can find a thousand domains that are confusingly similar to yours in an instant.

  5. Bertieboy

    Forsooth! I'm old and grumpy - old enough to remember the introduction of the Unsolicited goods and services act (1971) - if truth be known, I was quite old then! Is there no chance that Nominet have transgressed this act in any way and can be taken to task? - seems to me they're sales techniques are "iffy". Just asking.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Yes.

      Though it's mostly been superseded by the The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 which has more useful things in it.

      The chap cited in the article who said he'd had 42 emails. Regulation 12 of that act says that:-

      A trader is guilty of an offence if he engages in a commercial practice set out in any of paragraphs 1 to 10, 12 to 27 and 29 to 31 of Schedule 1.

      SCHEDULE 1 Commercial practices which are in all circumstances considered unfair

      26. Making persistent and unwanted solicitations by telephone, fax, e-mail or other remote media except in circumstances and to the extent justified to enforce a contractual obligation.

      If you took it to a magistrates court then if you won then they'd get a potential maximum fine of level 4 on the standard scale, which is £2500. Or 6 months inside if the case was then handed over to a judge to do the sentencing at a fully blown court instead of a panel of magistrates.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Tempting...

        As I am "the chap who had 42 emails" I may think about that. Presumably I start by complaining to my local (over-worked, under-funded) Trading Standards people? Or do I go to the one for the area where Fasthosts are based?

        1. OssianScotland Silver badge

          Re: Tempting...

          From past experience with (Scottish) trading standards, it is your local one first.

        2. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Tempting...

          “enforcement authority” means the OFT, every local weights and measures authority in Great Britain (within the meaning of section 69 of the Weights and Measures Act 1985(1)) and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland;

          I think that the "local weights and measures authority" is a former trading name of "Trading Standards", so they'd certainly do.

          Which? also claims that:-

          "A claim can also be made if you have suffered alarm, distress or physical inconvenience or discomfort as a result of the trader's actions."

          In which case you put the case into a civil court, and you get the money if a single magistrate decides that on the balance of probabilities you are right. (balance of probabilities means the magistrate is at least 51% sure your argument is right, which is a much better option than "beyond reasonable doubt", used in the magistrates or crown courts where they have to be >95% sure.)

      2. KBeee

        Law is for the obedience of plebs, and the guidance of Corporations.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "[...] and the guidance of Corporations."

          [...] and the guiavoidance of Corporations.

          FTFY

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nominet is a member-led organisation, working to improve...

    ...its coffers.

    Nominet being a member-led organisation always cracks me up, because it has essentially formalised the status of being told what do by the registrars. And considering its given up publishing anything it can get away with, it couldn't be more opaque if it was a regular private company.

    As for the fact that their money-printing ruse is looking like a substantial fuck-up if they are having to resort to these 'sales tactics', perhaps they might now be considering if they've accidentally inflated the market to a point where a *.uk domain is more faff than it's worth. Clearly, nominet should end name conflicts across .UK sub/domains, ideally by blocking new base-level registrations.

    Thinking of markets, both the CMA and OFCOM need to have a look in due course at Nominet's behaviour. Whether we'll see anything happen, that remains to be seen.

    1. Hubert Cumberdale

      Re: Nominet is a member-led organisation, working to improve...

      Personally speaking, being "member led" has got me into some trouble in the past.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Nominet is a member-led organisation, working to improve...

        Lucky you, Hubert :-)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nominet is a member-led organisation, working to improve...

          More like Wicked Willie.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    GDPR

    Surely it's a GDPR violation for

    1. Registrars to use personal information to register a domain which wasn't purchased.

    2. Nominet to use personal information to warn about domain expiry for a domain which wasn't purchased.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: GDPR

      Actually, this is most certainly correct. Good spot.

      So, are we starting a campaign of forwarding every single email to casework@ico?

  8. Recluse

    We aim to lose by the smallest margin ...

    I recently disposed of my longstanding .com domain of 20 years standing and moved to a .uk domain on the basis of its much cheaper annual charge (£6 v £12). Then there is 20 % VAT on top as well which is not insignificant. As I recall when I started with the .com it was £4.50 pa.

    There way I see it the wider trend is for domain registration to be monetised, hence the only way is up. On acquiring my .uk for this very reason I paid 10 years up front.

    As an aside I was originally with 123reg.co.uk registrar, but IMHO found their behaviour unethical. Their hard sell of the associated .uk domain to match my (then) .co.uk was the final straw. Have been much happier since I migrated out to my new registrar. I hope the reader will forgive a personal recommendation for a private company run by proper techs - yes I’m talking about you https://www.mythic-beasts.com/article/about

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      +1 mythic beasts

      I have no affiliation with them other than a happy customer - domain names only.

      1. HT7777
        Happy

        Re: +1 mythic beasts

        I'll third the recomendation for Mythic Beasts.

        Of the four domain name providers I've used 123reg, TSO and LCN; Mythic are the only one's I have a good word for.

    2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: We aim to lose by the smallest margin ...

      Personally i don't mind paying a few quid more for a particular TLD, e.g. .com compared to a .co.uk if I want to appeal to an international audience. I do object to the annual price rises.

      And, to be honest, now that we have .cymru & .wales I tend to use those instead of .com (many customers don't like .uk of any flavour), and price is about the same as .com - but of course have to register both versions!

      I've been using Fasthosts for quite a few years (the ones responsible for sending me 42 emails) and, to be fair, they've worked perfectly well. I just use them for domain registration (115 domains as of today, which is over £1K per year, but the customers are paying!) and then just point DNS to wherever it's hosted. I get pissed off with hosting providers and move more often than with domain providers and this makes it a lot easier. Not sure who owns them now though...

      1. RSW

        Re: We aim to lose by the smallest margin ...

        isn't .cymru and .wales the same thing anyway?

        just charging for the different language shows it's a rip off

  9. imanidiot Silver badge
    Holmes

    Who's side is Nominet on?

    Whatever side is going to allow it to pay out the biggest bonuses ofcourse. That much should be obvious by now

  10. heyrick Silver badge
    Happy

    Sorry Nominet

    I got myself a .eu and am only keeping the .co.uk going because of a quarter century of bookmarks and references elsewhere on the 'net. I have exactly zero interest in a .uk although I will admit there could be some value in it as a historical relic when it becomes .en, .sco, .cym, etc.

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Sorry Nominet

      They're actually .scot and .cymru / .wales and already exist. Apparently we couldn't have .cym for some reason - clashed with some other international standard abbreviation. Cameroon? And WAL tends to refer to the Wallis & Fortuna Islands!

      Wonder what they'll use for an england TLD ? .engerland ? I'm surprised no-one has started a campaign to get it registered. And can we have .kernow as well?

  11. poohbear

    I can't believe the didn't add the optional "search engine registration service" fee as well...

  12. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Pointless limitations

    What does it matter what the name of the TLD is? Why are we restricted to a limited list of TLDs? Oh yes, that's right. Introduce an artificial shortage to boost prices. Effing con all of it. There is no reason why you shouldn't be able to register any reasonable length TLD since all it requires is an entry in the Top Level DNS because your domain name is just a pointer to an IP Address. So, why not just allow any TLD up to say 8 characters and allow anyone to register them so long as they are not obscene, illegal, or insulting. Why do ICONN get to decide which TLDs are allowed or not? Why can't we have TheRegister.England or TheRegister.Wales or TheRegister.Scotland? (sorry Northern Ireland, your name is just too long! <LOL>). As for Nominet, they seem to be turning into just as much of a ripoff/con as Public Interest Registry's recent attempts to sell off the .ORG registry for profit.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Pointless limitations

      Here's why. Several reasons, actually:

      1. You shouldn't have the rights to a TLD, and few people do. If you register one, then you get to resell it. If I buy, for example, .canada, I would be selling domains in it despite the fact that there's no reason I should have more rights over this likely Canadian-centric domain than any other person. You would end up funding people who get in their requests first. ICANN basically did this anyway, but they gave the preference to people capable of coughing up several hundred thousand dollars per TLD. It was bad when they did that.

      2. You end up destroying the organizational systems that TLDs originally provided. If we never had domains and everyone just registered a unique name, that might work. However, that's not what happened. We started with a .com and people used that. It would be very irritating if established domains suddenly split into about twenty possible versions. Does a business based in London put their site at .uk or .england or .london, or for that matter .en, .eng, .lon, .gb, .britain, or whatever other domain someone's come up with? In that case, what's the point of having TLDs at all?

      3. With an infinite series of domains, you end up with massive squatting problems. I'm a scammer who wants to impersonate Microsoft? Well they've got microsoft.com nailed down. Have they got microsoft.c0m? Maybe, because if you let people reserve domains, someone is bound to create .c0m. But you can just generate something else. Maybe they never thought to go in and snag .microsoft and you can do that. Since MS has a U.K. presence, why not use one of the eight U.K.-related domain names I listed above and specialize in scamming British people? Keep in mind that those eight only focused on England and London, not any other part of the country, so there'd likely be tens or hundreds more. There's no way they can reserve all the potentially misleading domains.

      4. You are handing out a license to print money for anyone who can find an untaken TLD and extort people with threats of squatting. Microsoft may be able to afford buying a couple thousand domains. I for sure cannot.

      5. Because you are making it very easy to get TLDs, you are dramatically increasing the supply of domain names that are short and memorable. This would send the price very low for most of the unpopular TLDs, which would likely attract many unscrupulous people who need a domain for scam or malware purposes. While a free domain is always nice, what would actually happen is blacklisting of TLDs as a whole by overeager people who write firewall rules. This would cause problems for users of that TLD, legitimate and malicious alike, and cause people to migrate away from that one and to others. New firewall rules. New domains. Broader firewall rules. New domains. Rules that only allow a certain subset of domains. The system as we know it today. Your system would eat itself.

      Other than that, no problems.

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Pointless limitations

        @doublelayer - "We started with a .com"

        Speak for yourself. I started with uk.ac. (yes, big-endian). Even then, there were legends of bang path addressing from the truly ancient.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Pointless limitations

          As in both a .com and a .co.uk were in existence at the beginning of the internet. Most other TLDs were not. If you want to get pedantic, .com predates .uk. The point still stands: these TLDs had an organizational purpose when they were created. Creating a bunch of new ones would destroy it for little benefit.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Pointless limitations

            "As in both a .com and a .co.uk were in existence at the beginning of the internet."

            No, they weren't. Even if you consider the birth of The Internet to be the day that TCP/IP went live[0] (that would be January 1st, 1983), DNS and the dot coms came a couple ears later. For the record, symbolics.com is considered to be the first .com ever registered (March 15, '85 ... you can whois it for yourself), but in reality there were a few others earlier than that for test purposes.

            See RFC819 for more than you ever wanted to know about addressing in the early days.

            RIP, Jon.

            [0] Actually, the first login attempt using what we now call "The Internet" was on October 29, 1969.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When the demon.co.uk email domains were closing - Namesco invited you to chose your own personal domain for "free"***. The selection page automatically put both the .co.uk.and .uk variants in your basket. Yes - free initially - but there would be a renewal cost for both. They also automatically included the extra "privacy proxy" to stop your personal details being publicly linked to your domain - "free" but again with a renewal cost.

    I deselected the .co.uk - and now have a much snappier mydomain.uk than my previous long-winded demon one. It is intended to be unambiguous when written and spoken - and hopefully easy to remember If someone sets up a company with the corresponding .co.uk domain - I presume I can retain the .uk one.

    ***In fairness I must add that there was also an option of an apparently genuinely free subdomain of a Namesco domain.

  14. Smooth Newt Silver badge
    Boffin

    Articles of Association

    I'll just leave this here.

    Articles of Association of Nominet UK (the "Company")*

    ...

    Public Purpose

    1A In exercising their duties to promote the success of the Company for the benefit of the Members as a whole the directors shall have particular regard to the impact of the Company’s activities on the general public.

    1B The objects of the Company are to undertake activities, particularly (without limitation) as were formerly set out in the Company’s Memorandum of Association, and to do so for the public benefit.

    Admission of Members

    ...

    (for another 12 pages)

    *https://media.nominet.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/11091511/Nominet-UK-Articles-of-Association-AGM-2017.pdf

  15. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    We have dozens of clients and hundreds of domains we look after for them and not a single,one was interested in buying a .UK. If I mentioned that there was always a possibility that another company could ‘squat’ on the .UK name, most people just scoffed and said they’re not going to be ripped off into buying something that wasn’t even a thing a few years ago.

    1. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

      It takes time for this old geezer's fingers to learn new habits. .co.uk just flows and I'd wager I'll be mowed at government expense before .uk takes.

  16. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    But the *whole* *point* of the hierarchial....

    sigh

    can't be arsed.

    1. Ashto5

      Spot On

      You summed up the whole thing nicely

  17. autisticatheist
    Happy

    Nominet Shnominet

    About 14 years ago when I decided on the name for my business I thought about using .co.uk, then figured, why associate myself with only 1 country, and make people type extra characters in the process? So I went the .com route thankfully. Renewals are still cheap as chips and I don't have to deal with Nominet. Double win.

  18. bsdnazz

    All these TLDs

    Do the registrars not know people use search engines these days?

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020