Nominet's proposed changes to Dispute Resolution Services under fire

United Kingdom

Nominet, the '.uk' internet domain name registry, has been holding a consultation process over its Dispute Resolution Services (DRS). Unlike some national registries that use the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, Nominet manages its DRS directly via a panel of independent experts. Under Nominet's current procedure, the application process costs £750 (plus value added tax (VAT)) if an expert is appointed, which goes directly to the expert reviewing the dispute.

A large number of applications for DRS are undisputed, often because many of the registrants obtain domain names speculatively with a view to cybersquatting, resale or pay-per-click abuse. According to Nominet, the complainant wins in over 95% of undefended cases that go to an expert decision. As a result, Nominet is proposing that a complaint could be submitted for £10 (plus VAT), a nominal fee intended to discourage reverse hijacking. If undefended, the complainant would have the right to a transfer of the disputed domain name for a fee of £200 (plus VAT). The principle advantage is a simplification of the DRS process and a reduction of the costs involved. If defended, the current position would still apply - that is, an expert would be appointed for a fee of £750 (plus VAT).

Nominet's plans have been criticized for not going far enough. Although an applicant for DRS could save £540 (plus VAT) from the application fee, the more considerable expense of instructing legal assistance for the preparation of the application would remain under the proposed system. Complainants would still be required to posit arguments demonstrating the lack of the registrant's rights and supporting their own rights. This problem could potentially be overcome by allowing complainants to submit detailed arguments and materials only where the registrant has indicated its intention to respond.

The consultation process closed on October 3 2007. It will be interesting to see how Nominet will address these concerns.

Inbali Iserles, Ashurst, London

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