A Question Of Trust

Given the recent “telemarketer incident” with Netfleet, I was interested to read about a couple of other unrelated but similar “incidents” and how they seem to be playing out. In particular, there was this one:

Volkswagen

Recent revelations before the US Congress by Michael Horn (US Volkswagen boss) confirmed that “11m diesel VW vehicles worldwide have been fitted with a defeat device designed to cheat emissions tests”.

Volkswagen admitted responsibility and promised to fix. Highly commendable.

But when Mr Horn was taken to task over how and why it happened in the first place, he struggled. He are a few notable excerpts from The Guardian’s coverage (bolding is mine):

I have worked for 25 years for this company,” said the German-born executive. “Integrity, quality and not cheating was always for me a given for this company,” he said. “I don’t sleep at night.”

At first Horn kept to the VW line that two rogue software engineers were responsible for the deception, but under tough questioning by members of the House committee on energy and commerce he admitted that he too found it difficult to believe. Chris Collins, a representative from New York, told Horn that he “categorically” rejected the idea that lowly software engineers were solely responsible and that VW was either incompetent or involved in a “massive cover-up”.

“I agree it’s very hard to believe,” said Horn. “Personally I struggle as well.

Let’s Compare The Netfleet “Incident”

Here are a couple of quotes from the statement published on their company blog (bolding is mine):

A telemarketer in his first week with Netfleet inadvertently accessed limited data on existing bids in our daily expired domain auction. It appears that he used that information as a benchmark to influence a bid from a third party on a single domain.

Once again Netfleet sincerely apologies (sic) to any clients affected by this incident we wish to assure our customers this is a single incident that has never before occurred and steps have been taken to insure it will not occur again.

Sound familiar to Volkswagen? Blaming the small guy. Never happened before – and will never happen again.

My Conclusion And Belief

  • Given that Netfleet admitted to an “incident”, I cannot simply accept assurances that this was the “first and only time” it occurred.
  • Who gave the telemarketer his training? That’s the big question. He couldn’t just walk in and know what to do.
  • How many other telemarketers have been employed, and did they similarly access “limited data”?
  • Does any shareholder of Publishing Australia continue to have access to the back-end system of Netfleet (not just referring to drop platform)?
  • Unless there is some form of independent examination of log files and telemarketing records going back at least 3 months, plus an investigation into the RSS feed that certain people had access to for a time, there will always be doubt. Some people (like me) who have bid extensively on the Netfleet platform in the past will continue to think they may have been adversely affected.
  • Not only have we possibly been “gazumped” on good domains; but we may have bid more than we wanted to (because of our fears that this type of telemarketing activity was happening).
  • You cannot move forward successfully until you have comprehensively addressed the past.

In my humble opinion.

13 thoughts on “A Question Of Trust

  • October 12, 2015 at 3:30 pm
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    Wishful thinking?
    Looks like only one of those companies will be held to account.

  • October 12, 2015 at 3:36 pm
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    Some answers would be nice.

  • October 12, 2015 at 3:39 pm
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    Netfleet is hoping this will go away.  My gut feel at this point is that they could be right in their thinking. There aren’t enough domainers to make this incident a ‘loud enough’ issue.

    Having said that, this kind of ‘incident’ is now in full public view (thanks to you) and will certainly keep people skeptical and open minded to the idea that Netfleet has (and may again) act in an unethical and/or deceptive way.

    As a public company, it would be in the interest of MelbourneIT to start putting some distance between themselves and Netfleet to protect themselves from future fallout.  In my humble personal opinion, Netfleet seems to be a disaster keg waiting to explode.

  • October 12, 2015 at 3:39 pm
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    Spot on Ned.

    I really don’t want to hate Netfleet. They have honed their platform to be as good as it is to catch names from the drop. I wish it was fair and I wish I could love it. The main problem that just won’t go away, is that it is plain to see that it is designed to be a BLIND platform to squeeze every cent from every customer who uses it (because we all don’t know what’s happening behind that magic block-out curtain, so we are coerced to be scared to BID AS HIGH AS WE CAN). The other massive problem, of course, is they hold all the power in terms to who is ultimately granted the winning bid status, and we have no way of knowing if the winner has won the bid legitimately.

    The only points I would add to your well-written Netfleet critique would be:

    When you say, “Who gave the telemarketer his training? That’s the big question. He couldn’t just walk in and know what to do.“, That is a very good point. A part of me believes though, this could very well be like the Volkswagon example you gave, and this imaginary “employee” doesn’t even exist. He or she is just a ghost scapegoat. Is there a way this telemarketer can have his or her own say on this matter? If you’re reading this, mysterious Netfleet telemarketer, we would love to hear your take on what went down! (as long as you’re a real person and not with anonymous details).

    Does any shareholder of Publishing Australia continue to have access to the back-end system of Netfleet (not just referring to drop platform)?” Very good question – how can this be proven? Will the people behind Publishing Australia come out on record and declare they will no longer use the Netfleet system? Has it happened in the past?

    I strongly believe I have lost names in the past year because of shady practices by Netfleet, including the recent one they have admitted to. Simple as that. The only way I would be able to move forward, is if Netfleet properly addressed these issues and changed their BLIND bidding platform.

    I also strongly believe that if and when I am forced to use their platform in the future, I will be punished. I will be keeping records and displaying my results in the future.

    I would have been impressed if they had closed down when this initially came to light, took the allegations seriously, then took the appropriate actions to start the company and platform off with a fresh start. The new manager would have greatly benefited in showing he had nothing to do with the past, but would like to start fresh and honestly with a new approach and transparent bidding system. This didn’t happen, which is a massive shame. It’s quite disappointing to see how they have behaved and continue to behave as though they are untouchable and don’t care what a huge section of their main client base think about them. It is extremely disappointing and arrogant that they now choose to carry on and ignore their biggest customer base like no problem exists.

    You would think they would understand that by not addressing a problem as massive as this, only makes it bigger, and bigger, and bigger… A massive Ostrich that has done the wrong thing with it’s head in the sand is still guilty, even though it thinks no one can see it anymore.

    In my opinion, bringing in new blood to manage Netfleet was just a front. That’s what it currently looks like to me, I’m afraid. It would be great if they would communicate again with their beloved customers to let us know different from this! I’ve always found in the past that people or companies that can’t or won’t communicate have something to hide…

    This sad moment in the history of Australian Domain Names continues to look bleak!

     

     

  • October 12, 2015 at 4:49 pm
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    i have tried to make everyone aware of this all the way back in 2009

    SUMMARY

    1) seller lists a domain on Netfleet (Directors: David & Mark Lye) with the intention to get the best price possible for the name

    2) seller makes an error (but doesnt realise this until much later) and lists the name with a “buy now” price instead of “make an offer”

    3) strangely though no-one is able to search for the domain listing in order to place a bid or to grab it at the “buy now” price

    4) It turns out somehow Publishing Australia Pty Ltd (Directors: David & Mark Lye) manages buy the name from the seller within an hour or so of the listing at the “buy now” price

    5) seller contacts Netfleet (Directors: David & Mark Lye) to advise you that no-one was able to search the listing in order to place a bid and to advise you that “buy now” price was an error as the seller wanted multiple bidders to get the best possible price. Seller also asks Netfleet (Directors: David & Mark Lye) to investigate and advise whether the listing was readily available to any person searching your site, which turns out it wasn’t.

    6) Netfleet / Publishing Australia Pty Ltd Netfleet (Directors: David & Mark Lye) lawyers involved to force the seller to hand over the domain rather than putting the name back on the market (as requested by the seller) to get the best price for the name.

     

     

    EXTENDED VERSION

    1) when researching a particular domain in question, we found the original company/owner was UNDER EXTERNAL ADMINISTRATION, as such my business partner contacted the administrator and placed an offer to buy the name.

    2) 20/03/2009 – the administrator informed us that he was going to place the name on netfleet to determine a market price for the domain name.

    3) We search “Domain Name Search” on netfleet religiously every hour to see when the listing goes live to place our bids, but the name doesn’t come up at all in “Domain Name Search”

    4) 23/03/09 09:49 AM – seller places the name for sale on netfleet and then receives a confirmation email telling him the listing has been approved, the seller placed the name on netfleet with a “starting price of $500 AUD” and didnt realise that he also selected a “Target / Buy Now Price of $500”

    5) We still continue to search “Domain Name Search” on netfleet religiously every hour to see when the listing goes live to place our bids, but the name still doesn’t come up at all in “Domain Name Search”

    6) 23/03/09 11:50 AM – Publishing Australia Pty Ltd somehow buys the name for $500

    7) We still continue to search “Domain Name Search” on netfleet religiously every hour to see when the listing goes live to place our bids, but the name still doesn’t come up at all in “Domain Name Search” nor does it come up in the “Recent Sales” section, actually it never came up even as of today

    8) 25/03/2009 5:37 PM – we get an email from the seller telling us the name was sold on netfleet to the sole offer received

    9) 25/03/2009 5:50 PM – we contact the seller by phone and inform him that the name never made available to the public, turns out the only way to find the name was by knowing the exact url and the 5 digit id code at the end of the url eg: http://www.netfleet.com.au/index.php?a=d&id=35417,

    10) 26/03/09 08:01 AM – seller sends the following email to netfleet

    Dear Netfleet Team,

    I have been contacted by a prospective purchaser who says he is unable to search the listing in order to place a bid. My search test confirms. The only access appears to be the link provided by you below, and that is not available to prospective purchasers. Can you please investigate and advise whether the listing was readily available to any person searching your site.

    11) Now the legal people get involved and seller is informed that they must sell the name to Publishing Australia Pty Ltd as per terms and conditions on netfleet

    12) 04/04/2009 – email to us from the seller

    The Liquidator has completed the sale transaction with Publishing Australia Pty Ltd, after taking legal advice and further negotiations with the Purchaser.

    • October 12, 2015 at 6:31 pm
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      … more first-hand shadiness as the list keeps growing.

      Thanks for sharing Sasha.

      Exactly how long has all this been going on?

      I guess it took this latest smoking gun to finally topple the deck of cards.

      How is Netfleet still operating as though nothing is wrong?!?!?!

      “This is a one-off, it’s never happened before!”

      What’s the next step to making them accountable for all the wrong doing?

       

      • October 12, 2015 at 7:02 pm
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        “For clarity, the domain name was bought by Publishing Australia after seeing the listing on Netfleet…………….Publishing Australia own a large portfolio of domains, and have bought and sold numerous domains using the Netfleet sales platform. This is simply another sale. I would seriously urge all reading this to not judge Netfleet/NetAlliance based on these untrue accusations”

        Mark Lye – 29 October 2009

        • October 12, 2015 at 7:08 pm
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          Publishing Australia could not have “seen” the listing via normal processes and channels as the name was not searchable or locatable on netfleet unless you knew what the actual EXACT link is (http://www.netfleet.com.au/index.php?a=d&id=17126) and the only people aware of that link were netfleet & Publishing Australia and the seller.

          Prospective purchasers were unable to search netfleet for the listing in order to place a bid, how did publishing australia find/see the listing on Netfleet?

          The only way Publishing Australia could have “acquired” the name before anyone else, is by you having the “inside” information of the actual listing before anyone else. Now thats not a level playing field….

        • Ned O'Meara
          October 12, 2015 at 7:20 pm
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          With Mark Lye owning 1/3 of the shares in Publishing Australia (according to recent company search)?

          Imagine the penalties if this was real estate or stocks / shares.

          All we want is a level playing field.

      • Ned O'Meara
        October 12, 2015 at 10:22 pm
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        @ Robert

        As Rudy said:

        Netfleet is hoping this will go away.  My gut feel at this point is that they could be right in their thinking. There aren’t enough domainers to make this incident a ‘loud enough’ issue.

        As someone who has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars with Netfleet, I’m genuinely incensed. How many domains have I potentially lost in recent times? How much extra have I paid because of potentially contrived market conditions?

        These are serious questions.

        This will not go away until a proper effort is made to address past concerns.

  • October 12, 2015 at 7:24 pm
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    Since at least June we have been running into the same customers as PA on the phone telemarketing almost daily. On many occasions were were outbid on NF and lost the domain name. This is not new to PA and I discussed this with David on multiple occasions. An issue like this does raise doubt in those transactions. As previously posted I think it is fair to understand what I asked in my previous comment:

    1) Take responsibility for what has happened

    2) Be honest with the extent and background of the “legacy way” – Who could have had access, do you have log files showing access and when, how long has it been accessible?

    3) What will be done about the culture of dishonesty that has been shown by staff?

    4) How is the auction going to function in the future to ensure their is transparency

    5) How do you report on such breaches internally? And in light of your auDA accreditation and soon to be ISS compliance?

    In fairness I think 1) and 4) have or are being addressed. It still leaves serious questions around 2) and 5) and I believe the community would appreciate a response. In my opinion no response is a response, as this information is easily accessed in log files and would clear the air.

    • Ned O'Meara
      October 12, 2015 at 10:07 pm
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      @ Jono Horne

      I’m not a technical person, but is is it possible for log files to be wiped or altered?

  • October 13, 2015 at 7:14 am
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    Potentially after they are exported, however I believe Netfleet have been accountable and transparent about this issue to date so I doubt they would go back to such dishonest tactics.

Comments are closed.