10 Things You Must Know Before Registering Your Domain Name
10 Things You Must Know Before Registering Your Domain Name
The domain registration market is a jungle. Hundreds of companies offer widely differing services. Many are honest, stable businesses. Many are poorly run, under-resourced and are designed to rip off their clients. Here are a few of the more common tricks that you should look out for.
1) “Transfer-Out” fees
Some unscrupulous domain registrars hide a hidden fee in their “Terms and Conditions” that 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.
Here’s an example of how it can all go wrong.
A website owner registered 30 of their domains with a UK company called Easyspace (www.easyspace.com or www.easyspace.co.uk ). To start with, their prices were low so the internet entrepreneur tolerated their poor customer service. But then they started putting their prices up . . . and their customer service was still lousy!
So they decided to move to a cheaper and better company. It was only then that they found out that Easyspace had introduced a charge of £58 to move a domain name from their service. The cost to move 30 domains was £1,740.
That’s £1,740 to get your own property back!
Given that domain name transfer is a fully automated process, this is an example of how you can get ripped off if you don’t read the small print.
It was later discovered that this practise violates the ICANN (the central domain registration body) policy on domain transfers and you can claim your money back via your credit card company.
2) Other Small Print Nasties
Nobody reads the small print, but you should. Some domain registration companies have some real horrors hidden in their terms and conditions. For example one company that has since been taken over had a clause stating that if you did not pay for the domain name on demand, they had the right to transfer ownership to themselves. Also, some companies give themselves power of attorney whilst others have no liability if they lose your domain name because of their incompetence.
3) You Pay, the Registrar Doesn’t
A common trick is for the registrar to persuade 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 is not.
Many companies pay the registry fee for just one year and put the remaining money in their own bank account to earn interest, or worse still, use it to finance the company's cash flow. At the end of each year, they renew your domain and pay from the reserves they have kept.
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.
4) Whois Edit Fees and Locks
When you register a domain name, a Whois record is created that has all your information and is 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.
5) Privacy Services Piracy
The Whois record is available for anyone on the internet to see. This can have several problems. If your domain is registered to your home, do you want your address, telephone and email address available to the world? Secondly, spammers often ‘mine’ the Whois data to add names to their spam lists. Finally, there is identity theft. Criminals often use Whois data to build profiles of an individual to steal their identity.
Some registrars offer a service to hide this Whois data, which seems like an excellent idea except for one thing. To hide your details, the registrar replaces your information with theirs and submits this to the Whois database. This officially makes them the owner of that domain name. The Terms and Conditions should protect you, but make sure you are dealing with a reputable and well established company.
6) Domain Slamming
Beware. Some rogue domain companies look at the Whois records and when they see your domain is expiring, they send out a renewal notice. 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.
7) Domain Name Locks
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 locking and unlocking your domain names. Some registrars deliberately make it difficult for you to move your account away from them.
8) Domain Name Authorisation Code
Similar to holding back the ability to unlock your domain name is holding back the authorisation code. Some domain names, including .info, .biz and .org, require an authorisation code to enable the domains to be transferred. Some companies make it very difficult to get this code.
9) Domain Parking
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 website, cover it with adverts and then use your domain name as the site address. They then make money from all the adverts. This is not a scam, but at the same time if you are like me, I don’t like the idea that they are charging me to host my domain and then they are using my domain to make more money.
10) Beware of Free Domain Name Registration
There is no such thing as a free domain registration! You will be paying for something. It may be that the company is using your domain to park some names, or they may serve ‘pop-up’ or ‘pop-under’ adverts whenever somebody calls up your domain.
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 a priority. If you have a successful website and then lose your domain name, I am afraid you will be out of business!