The Federal Court has ordered Domain Corp Pty Ltd and Domain Name Agency Pty Ltd (also trading as Domain Name Register) to pay a combined total of $1.95 million for contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law.
The claim focused on domain name “renewal invoices” which were sent by some of the Respondents to unsuspecting businesses with fees much higher than what reputable domain name registrars were selling at. The renewal notices were unsolicited, and many businesses ended up paying well over $200 per domain name. Many people in the industry have received similar notices for years now. The Federal Court claim was brought by the ACCC. The ACCC alleged that:
“From November 2015 to at least April 2017, the two Domain Companies sent out approximately 300,000 unsolicited notices to businesses, which looked like a renewal invoice for the business’s existing domain name. Instead, these notices were for the registration of a new domain name at a cost ranging from $249 to $275.”
“The Domain Companies misled businesses into thinking they were renewing payment for the business’ existing domain name, when in fact the business was paying for a new domain name,” ACCC Acting Chair Delia Rickard said.
As a consequence of the ACCC’s successful action, the Third Respondent Steven Bell was “disqualified from managing corporations for a period of 5 years”.
This is not the first time consumer protection authorities have acted to stop questionable practices in the industry. Recently the Victorian Department of Fair Trading took similar action in the Federal Court against Domain Register Pty Ltd for a similar type of unsolicited notice.