By Kevin Muldoon

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Your website domain name is one of the most important assets of your online business. It is the land in which you build your online house. Despite this, many people continue to allow their domain names be controlled by third parties.

As you can imagine, a lot of problems can arise because of this. In a worse case scenario, you could lose your domain name and then have to go through a legal battle to acquire it again.

In this article, I would like to speak about why it is vital that you always have full control over your domain names.

This is an issue I touched upon many times, but it is something I feel I still need to stress. Those of you who are new to working online should make a point of reading on

Always Retain Full Control Over Your Domain Names

I registered my first domain names way back at the start of 2000 and I quickly learned the importance of using a good domain company and ensuring that you have full control over your domain.

Within the UK, domain registrars and associated hosting companies have a very bad habit of introducing stealth fees. For example, a fee of £29 could be applied when you try and move your domain to another company (£29 is around $44 USD). This high price is aimed at discouraging customers from moving their business elsewhere.

A big problem I see time and time again is design companies and hosting companies that register a domain for you (free of charge or for a fee), but then register the domain name in their name. This is a sneaky technique to stop customers from taking their business elsewhere. Unfortunately, it can cause huge problems for customers.

For example, around 2003/2004, a friend’s parent’s company completely lost their domain name because the small design company that registered their domain name went out of business. A lengthy fight to get the domain back ensued, but in the end they just registered a new domain name for a company. I have since seen this same type of thing happen several times to friends and family.

On the internet, your domain name is your identity. It is what your brand, traffic, and search engine presence, is tied to. Do not underestimate the importance of this.

Over the last fifteen years I have written many forum posts and many blog posts that stressed the importance of controlling your domain name. I have discouraged aspiring web developers and internet marketers from taking the offer of a free domain name as in the end it costs them a lot of headache to get the domain back in their control.

Always, always, register your domain name yourself. Never rely on a design company or hosting company to handle your domain name for you. I cannot stress this enough.

You need to keep full control over your domain name and ensure the domain name is registered to your name, email address, and physical address.

An Example of Problems That Can Arise When You Do Not Own Your Domain Name

I was inspired to write about this topic today because of an incident that occurred this week.

A friend of mine had his domain name suspended a few days ago, despite the fact his domain name was registered until 2017.

I checked the whois information for the domain. There were two things that highlighted what the issue was here.

Under the heading of “Data Validation”, it said:

“Nominet was not able to match the registrant’s name and/or address against a 3rd party source on 25-Aug-2015”.

For the benefit of those outside of the UK, Nominet is the domain registry for .uk type domains within the United Kingdom.

Under the heading of “Registration Status”, it said:

“Registered until expiry date.
*** This registration has been SUSPENDED. ***”.

The domain was unfortunately not registered in my friend’s name. It was registered to the design company who originally designed his website a few years ago. Therefore, he did not technically own the domain name to his own website.

My friend forwarded an email from Nominet that explained the situation in full.

Thank you for your email with regards to the ……. domain name.

We recently introduced a new Data Quality Policy. This means that we now attempt to validate all registrant name and address details through various public third party data sources at the point of registration, or when certain changes are made to the registration.

We were unable to automatically validate the postal address for your registration.

After several attempts to notify you that we were unable to validate these details, the domain name was consequently suspended.

In order to lift this suspension and validate this domain name we require you to complete one of the following options:

– If the details are correct then we require copy of official documentation to validate the details. For example, a utility bill from the last three months or a driver’s licence (if registered to an individual), or a company registration certificate (if registered to a company).

– If the details are not correct please update them through our Online Services athttp://www.nominet.org.uk/go/login. If you have not already set your password please click on ‘First time logging in or forgotten your password?’ and our system will then send you an email from which you can log in and create your password.

Once logged in please go to the ‘Your Actions’ section and make any necessary changes. The changes will then come through to us for review.

Once we have received either the official documentation or corrected changes we will then be able to validate the registration and lift the suspension.

If you need anything further, please do contact me on +44 (0) 1865 332244, or by email at nominet@nominet.org.uk.

Kind regards,

Customer Services
T +44 (0) 1865 332244
F +44 (0) 1865 332288

Nominet UK is a company limited by guarantee and registered in England under No. 3203859. Our registered office is Minerva House, Edmund Halley Road, Oxford Science Park, Oxford, OX4 4DQ, England.
www.nominet.org.uk

I called Nominet directly to get a complete picture of what had happened.

They advised that the registration information did not appear valid so they sent letters to the address on file. Since they did not receive a reply (because the design company no longer exists), the domain name was suspended.

As someone who spent many years of his life travelling around the world whilst working online, I was amazed that a lack of a response to a physical letter could allow a domain registrar to simply suspend the domain name. I suspect, however, that emails were also sent to the email address on file and were never replied.

I must admit that I pleasantly surprised by how helpful Nominet were on the phone. The person who took my call, Andy, was polite, professional, and had an answer to every query I had.

Since the design company closed, one of the former employees was handling my friend’s website. This essentially entailed him sending him a bill once a year to ensure he kept paying his hosting bill.

In a worse case scenario, we can use Nominet’s Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) to present our case about why my friend should own the domain. Past invoices for the domain and hosting could be used as evidence in the dispute.

He advised that a typical dispute takes around ten days. If the case did not go in my friend’s favour, he could take it further with a legal case, although the costs would be higher.

My hope is that it will not come to that. All we need is for the former employee of the design company to change the registration information to my friend’s name, email address, and home address. A £10.40 fee plus VAT is applicable for this modification; however, that is a small price to pay to resolve this situation quickly.

Once the domain is in his name, we can transfer the domain to another domain registration company and ensure that this never happens again in the future.

Final Thoughts

It annoys me that design companies and hosting companies continue to register customer domain names in their own name. As you have seen, it can cause problems in the future if the true owner of a domain name does not have full control over it.

Every design company or hosting company that was going out of business should email all of their customers about the issue. They should transfer full control of domain names to customers and ensure that the owners of each domain have an opportunity to transfer the domain to a different registrar.

Sadly, that rarely happens. Instead, companies tend to hold customers to ransom with abhorrent administration fees and domain transfer fees.

If your website’s domain name is not currently registered with your name, email address, and physical address; then I encourage you to transfer the domain to another location as soon as possible.

You need to ensure that you have full control over your domain name. If not, the success of your online business could be affected negatively in the future.

Good luck.

Kevin

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