It is often said that the Internet is like the wild west and certainly in the domain registration business there are some real cowboys. These are some of the tricks that domain registrars use to try to squeeze more money out of you, make cash from your domain or worst of all, take ownership of your URL.
For advice on how to find a good domain name registration company read this article.
Some unscrupulous domain registrars hide a hidden fee in their “Terms and Conditions”, which enables them to charge you to transfer your domain names to another registrar. This fee can be several times the annual registration fee and is intended to stop you taking your business elsewhere. Avoid registrars with any transfer fees.
Some domain registration companies have some real horrors hidden in their terms and conditions.
For example, one company I know has a clause that says if you don’t pay the annual fee for your domain name on demand (i.e. as soon as they ask for it), they have the right to transfer ownership of the URL to themselves. Imagine going on holiday and returning to find you missed the email demanding immediate payment and as a result the registrar had taken ownership of your domain name!
A common trick is where the registrar persuades you to pay for a multiple year registration, usually by offering a discount. Your understanding is that your domain is then registered and secure for the next three to five years.
Often it’s not.
Many registrars pay the registry fee for just one year and stick the remaining money in their own bank account to earn interest, or worse, use it to fund their company. At the end of each year they renew your domain when payment is due.
There are several risks with this.
If the company forgets to renew, YOU will lose the domain name.
If the company goes bankrupt, you would lose your cash and the domain would not be registered for any longer than the current year.
Finally companies, who use this trick, usually have a no refund or transfer policy so if you want to move or sell your domain you lose your money.
When you register a domain name a ‘Whois’ record is created which has all your information in. This a formal record of ownership. You should have free access to these records so that you can change them whenever you want. Some companies charge an administration fee to make changes. Some also lock your domain every time you make a change. This prevents the domains from being transferred.
As mentioned, the Whois record for every domain is available for anyone on the Internet to see. This has serious personal security implications. But beware of registrars using their Privacy Service to steal your domain.
The Privacy Services work by the registrar replacing your information with their own details. This is then submitted to the global Whois database.
The problem is this officially makes the registrar the owner of YOUR domain name.
With good registrars their terms and conditions protect you and ensure you are still the legal URL owner. With poor registrars they don’t have this clauses in their terms, so you are unprotected.
Some rogue domain companies monitor Whois records and when they see a domain is expiring they send out a renewal notice, usually in the post. If you sign and send the money in response to this letter it actually initiates a domain name transfer away from your chosen company to this new rogue registrar. This is called domain slamming. Always renew your domain on YOUR domain registrars website.
To avoid domain slamming many registrars offer a domain locking service, so your domain cannot be transferred. This is a good and worthwhile service.
However, make sure that you have control over the locking and unlocking of your domain names. Some registrars deliberately make unlocking difficult to prevent you from moving your account away from them.
Similar to holding back the ability to unlock your domain name is holding back the authorization code. Most domain names, including .com, .co.uk, .info, .biz and .org require an authorization code to enable them to be transferred. Some companies make it very difficult to get this code.
You may not be aware of domain parking.
If you register a domain name and you don’t use it for a website, some registrars create a temporary site, which they cover in adverts and assign it to your domain name. They then make the money from all the adverts that are clicked. This is not a scam, but if you’re like me, I don’t like the idea that they are charging me to host my domain and then they are using it to make money for themselves.
There is no such thing as a free lunch!
If you use a free domain registration service they WILL get money out of you or your domain name in some way. You will be paying for something.
It may be that the company is using your domain for parking pages or they may serve ‘pop-up’ or ‘pop-under’ adverts, whenever somebody types in your URL. My advice is NEVER use a free registration service.
These 10 points are not intended to scare you, but to make you aware of what to look out for when registering your domain. Ensuring your domain is in good hands should be your priority.
If you have a successful website and then lose your domain name I’m afraid you’re out of business, so stick with reputable registrars.