Home Technology Regulation Court fines domain companies $1.95m over misleading notices

Two domain registrars have been fined a collective total of $1.95 million by the Federal Court for breaching Australian Consumer Law.

Domain Corp and Domain Name Agency — the latter also trades as Domain Name Register — sent out about 300,000 unsolicited notices to businesses between November 2015 and April 2017, that resembled domain name renewal notices, according to a statement by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on Friday.

But these were not renewals and instead were for registration of a new domain name at prices ranging from $249 to $275.

The two firms made false and misleading representations and engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct, the Court said. They received a total of about $2.3 million in response to these misleading notices.

“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.

“These sham operations target small businesses, capitalising on a lack of understanding of the domain name system or a busy office environment. We encourage businesses to be vigilant when paying invoices, especially if it is for a domain name registration service.”

The sole director of both companies, Steven Bell aka Steven Jon Oehlers, was found to be knowingly concerned in, and a party to, the operation. He was disqualified from managing a company for five years and ordered to pay $8000 in costs to the ACCC.

Additionally, orders against the companies (for five years) and against Bell (for three years) include a requirement that any further notices have to say: “This notice does not relate to the registration of your current domain name. This is not a bill. You are not required to pay any money”.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.


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