Help.com.au sold for ???

Help.com.au dropped today and was purchased by The Investment Engine Pty Ltd.

According to ASIC Records, David Warmuz (Owner of Trellian and Drop.com.au) is a previous shareholder of The Investment Engine (33%) (as of last year).

As we all know, there’s only ONE “drop catcher” for Australian domain names now, called “Drop.com.au”, ever since they purchased their competitor Netfleet.com.au for nearly $1 million last November.

Drop clearly have a monopoly over very valuable domain names dropping nearly every day. And their bidding system is blind and no one knows how much Help.com.au sold for today. We don’t know if David (as previous shareholder for The Investment Engine who won the name) helped some of his old mates get the domain? Or perhaps the company purchased the domain fair and square?

And this is the problem.

I’m bringing attention to what happened today, not to attack David Warmuz, but, for the sole purpose of saying what’s clearly on a lot of people’s minds…

For the sake of fair competition and transparency in the domain name industry, someone needs to bring another drop catcher to the market as soon as possible.

As mentioned above, the company that owns Drop.com.au is Trellian, and, according to Trellian‘s own “brands” page, they currently own and run;

This clearly shows Trellian are “domain investors” and “actively buy and sell and develop” premium domain names.

Which would be fine, if auDA didn’t have Registrar policy rules such as;

The Registrar must not do any of the following:

(a) register any Domain Names for itself on its own behalf unless such registration(s) is/are for its own legitimate use in providing Registrar Services under this Agreement;

(e) be involved in any activity, or permit a Related Entity of the Registrar to be involved in any activity, which involves the acquisition or accumulation of Domain Names which are not connected to the provision of Registrar Services under this Agreement, unless such activity is permitted under a Published Policy; and

(f) do, enable or facilitate any activities that aim to artificially reduce the supply and availability of Domain Names.

David Warmuz has himself admitted on this very website that he is a “Domainer” when he wrote, “As a Domainer…” here.

So how can auDA allow David Warmuz and Trellian (who own and develop many valuable premium domain names) to run our one and only Australian domain name drop catching service and not other Domainers?

Domainers have always been told they’re not allowed to run a drop catcher.

Perhaps it’s time for auDA to quickly change the rules and allow ANYONE to operate a drop catcher service, in the interest of fairness and transparency?

Nothing against David personally, I think he’s a smart and successful business person, BUT… I don’t think Drop.com.au‘s current monopoly over the domain drop catcher market is fair.

30 thoughts on “Help.com.au sold for ???

  • Avatar
    February 11, 2021 at 3:07 pm
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    I agree.

    I put in a $5k bid yesterday just for shits and giggles but was immediately told to enter a higher bid ($10k+) so I opted out (It was really just a throw-away low ball offer – hey, you never know), but I guess it does show there were other bids already in.

    But I agree, monopolies are never good news for anyone other than the oligarch that runs the monopoly. We do need another drop catcher.

    And it would be nice to know what it sold for.

    Rudy…

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    • Avatar
      February 11, 2021 at 3:11 pm
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      I placed $10k very quickly as it was listed. That was gone.

      How do we know if ANY amount was available?

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  • Avatar
    February 12, 2021 at 6:40 am
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    auDA, as the regulator, should be looking into this matter. By approving the sale of Netfleet to Trellian they allowed a monopoly to occur in the drop market, which is the opposite of their core functions.

    auDA should look at the relationship between Trellian Pty Ltd, Guzzini Pty Ltd, Drop.com.au Pty Ltd, Fabulous.com.au Pty Ltd etc. Between them they own thousands of .au domain names and still they run multiple registrars in the .au namespace.

    auDA. Do your job. Once again the community is doing it for you.

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  • Neddy
    February 12, 2021 at 7:14 am
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    You raise some good points Rob. This is exactly the sort of situation that Domainer exists for – to let people know what is going on in the Aussie domain space.

    As I said many times previously, I like David – and I truly admire his success. It’s not his fault that there is only one drop catcher in Australia. He saw an opportunity; outlaid a significant sum of money, and the regulator auDA rubber stamped the deal (which in effect created a secretive monopoly). There is nothing to stop any other registrar or potential registrar getting into the drop catching business. I wrote about this on Domainer back in January – and there were a lot of comments.

    When something like this arises though, my antenna and hackles go up (and I know other domain investors feel the same way). David could well be totally innocent in this, and it is just a coincidence, but we will never know because there is no transparency. It is the perception that exists of possible backroom deals being done. The old sniff test! If I had of had a high bid on this domain (which I didn’t), I would be really concerned if I lost out to a bidder that recently had a registrar (related entity) as a shareholder.

    It is an easy fix, and I hope David and Anthony do something soon. As per my previous article, this Bill Gates quote is spot on: “Your Most Unhappy Customers Are Your Greatest Source Of Learning”.

    Finally, this comment in the previous article from Cam Bell (who has been in the Aussie domain industry for two decades) stood out for me.

    “In any industry, a monopoly always ends up in bad news for the end user. In our case, it’s not just a monopoly but a secretive one that lacks transparency around bidding and winning. Drop currently has no incentive to change as there’s nowhere else to go.”

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  • Avatar
    February 12, 2021 at 8:49 am
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    Remember transparency on Drop? (circa 2016)

    drop.com.au 2016

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    • Avatar
      February 12, 2021 at 8:59 am
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      Oh for those days…

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  • Avatar
    February 12, 2021 at 8:58 am
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    Oh yes, much better system but they didnt win much back then haha

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    • Avatar
      February 12, 2021 at 10:10 am
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      A case of… When you have something to hide, you hide everything. (?)

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  • Avatar
    February 12, 2021 at 11:05 am
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    Change needs to come from auDA. So the odds of that are…

    As far as I know Trellian are operating within the regulations so it’s just smart business from them.

    I actually don’t value the domain that highly anyway but that’s besides the point!

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    • Avatar
      February 12, 2021 at 5:04 pm
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      Start with anti-competitive then add serious conflict of interest.

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    • Avatar
      February 13, 2021 at 12:42 pm
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      Great questions.

      Who actually regulates the .au drop catching system?

      What daily .au name drop process and auction missing transparencyt is detrimental to .au domain name consumers and how to fix it?
      ***
      Should auDA.org.au run an official daily .au drop auction showing all bids live, registered bidders who can be verified, and with a more transparent system?
      ***

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      • Avatar
        February 14, 2021 at 4:02 pm
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        Be careful what you wish for

        If auDA runs auctions it can make them 30 days and extended if it so choses, this would mean almost every domain would be bought by the best end user and none of you would get anything

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  • Ed Keay-Smith
    February 12, 2021 at 11:51 am
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    Totally agree Rob.

    I have been a customer of Drop.com.au since around 2009 back when transparency was in place and the bidding system was fair and you didn’t feel like you were getting scalped everytime you increased your bid to a higher level.

    Only having one domain drop catcher is not good for the domain industry and is definitely a monopoly in its current form in my opinion.

    I like the guys at Drop and have had great service from them over the years, but this jumping from say $2,500 up to $5,000 or $10,000 to $25,000 as examples will be turning away many potential new people to the domain drop catching ecosystem and it is currently a one way street mainly benefitting Drop.com.au.

    Like other domain drop catching systems around the world, we need transparency and a fair and reasonable domain drop catching auction system.

    I really hope Trellian & Drop.com.au do the right thing by their customers and make these changes. I don’t think what we are asking for is unreasonable, just transparent and fair.

    and how much did Help.com.au go for $$$ ?????

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  • Avatar
    February 12, 2021 at 12:12 pm
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    its actually weird that the auctioneer (drop catcher) receives the full financial benefit from the sale of a domain name. The auctioneer is a third party and never controlled that domain name until the moment it was caught and transferred within minutes of catching it. Unlike the previous registrant who may have maintained control over it for 2 or more years (sometimes 10-15+years) but for whatever circumstance the domain expires – leaving the auctioneer (drop catcher) the exclusive and immediate right to sell it for a 100% profit.

    The drop catcher (auctioneer) achieves those sales using blind bidding tranches to extract the highest price anonymously – which is simply a ransomware platform and not a genuine auction.

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    • Avatar
      February 12, 2021 at 12:28 pm
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      Thanks for commenting Mr Cottons.

      You make some good points, but I don’t agree with your “ransomware” part.

      In my eyes, Drop.com.au are operating a perfectly legitimate business and service, and should be paid for providing that service. I use their service almost every day and am happy to pay for the service. Their support team is also very reliable. I don’t think most people have a problem with that?

      However, the elephant in the room is blindingly obvious at this point.

      Drop need a competitor. And they need to change their bidding pricing system.

      For DROP to become competitive, they clearly need a COMPETITOR. And if a competitor does it right, I believe this could bring back transparency (and fairness!) to the market and also bring back more realistic “drop” or “wholesale” pricing for domain investors and entrepreneurs (instead of jumping from $2500 straight up to $5k and then to the ridiculous $10k mark!).

      Possibly sometime in the not-too-distant future, Domainers will look back at this period of time and can’t believe we used to be forced to jump from $5k to $10k with no options in between! Still, Drop.com.au can choose to run any sort of auction process they wish, if there’s NO OTHER CHOICE in the market.

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      • Avatar
        February 12, 2021 at 1:08 pm
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        Thanks for responding Robert:

        The true market price (the “collective limit”) is skewed – to go from $25k straight to $50k straight to $100k without any other price point is simply holding the market to ransom.

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        • Avatar
          February 12, 2021 at 1:16 pm
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          I get you more now. Good point!

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        • Avatar
          February 12, 2021 at 2:09 pm
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          Bullocks

          If you don’t want to pay it, don’t bid

          Auctioneer sets the increments

          Drop doesn’t owe peasant domainers any favours

          Don’t like it? Don’t buy on the drops and buy on the aftermarket instead. Oh wait, it’s impossible to buy good quality domains on the aftermarket for less than 5 figures these days. Whoops.

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          • Avatar
            February 14, 2021 at 5:05 am
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            “Peasant domainers”?

            Classy.

            History has often shown that peasants inspire revolution when they have had enough.

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  • Avatar
    February 12, 2021 at 1:26 pm
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    Watch what happens if a competitor enters the market offering transparent auction bidding. Drop will suddenly have an epiphany and become a “born again” transparent drop catcher.

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  • Avatar
    February 12, 2021 at 1:43 pm
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    Drop are operating totally within their rights. It’s a free market economy and they, like every business, have sought to grow and create an unfair advantage.

    That being said, as a customer it creates a dismal experience, as without competition there is no requirement for them to improve.

    The product experience needs a huge amount of work (eg totally not mobile friendly) however the price secrecy is the worst part. The two major changes that need to happen are removing the arbitrary fixed incremental bidding system, which then lets the market determine the true value of the domain. And publishing the sales price, which only benefits the market again by benchmarking prices and helping the ecosystem.

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    • Avatar
      February 12, 2021 at 5:38 pm
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      There is no great profit in drop catching because decent domains do not drop every day and have not for years. This is part of why there is now only one drop catcher whereas there used to be 3.

      Instead of sooking you should all recognise that this is a sign of maturity and that opportunities for domainers to buy on the cheap are over.

      People are hanging on to their domain names and because they recognise the value there are fewer and fewer stuff-ups resulting in deletion.

      On top of this, those who have generic domain names generally succeed in whatever they are doing, so the chances of a domain name expiring are reduced further because it is not idle.

      Just remember, Anthony created all 4 drop catchers that have existed in Australia. If anyone wants to waste time and money on a new drop catching enterprise they can. But it will not be profitable and will not succeed.

      Best you can all do is stop biting the hand that feeds, take a chill pill and buy on the aftermarket – because the drops are like a beach that has already been combed by every boomer with a metal detector.

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      • Avatar
        February 14, 2021 at 5:08 am
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        What sheer arrogance. Sounds like you represent the establishment. Bring on the revolution.

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      • Avatar
        February 15, 2021 at 5:36 pm
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        “There is no great profit in drop catching because decent domains do not drop every day”

        This is the issue. Drop catchers do not control their inventory. It’s either “feast or famine”.

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    • Avatar
      February 15, 2021 at 5:31 pm
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      “And publishing the sales price, which only benefits the market again by benchmarking prices and helping the ecosystem.”

      Except where you have caught a domain via drop.com.au, and a prospective buyer can then see how much you paid…

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  • Avatar
    February 13, 2021 at 4:38 am
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    The domain industry in Australia really needs to clean up its act to look like we are part of the global domain industry with the same standards.

    We have no transparency on the drop catching platform after Drop was allowed to purchase Netfleet. Drop originally was the best platform as you only paid $1 more than the underbidder and they published the results, but they struggled to catch many domains when Netfleet got their act together, at least we knew we were not getting robbed. Then Netfleet went to best offer and they got caught with their hand in the till, Drop then went to hiding all sale prices and it looks like they have their hand in the till. This does not pass the pub test

    auDA please have a look at this

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  • Avatar
    February 13, 2021 at 4:40 am
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    Could this be construed as possible insider trading here? Unless the bidding process is transparent, no one will ever know if this or any other transaction is legit.

    How much did the domain actually sell for?

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  • Avatar
    February 13, 2021 at 11:30 pm
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    The responsibilities for regulation of monopolies and primary/secondary market structure and behaviour fall to auDA and/or ACCC.

    Under the Terms of Endorsement by the Federal Government, a ‘Core function’ of auDA is to “promote principles of competition, fair trading and consumer protection”. Clearly these Terms place a pro-competitive obligation on auDA. ACCC has responsibilities for economic regulation under competition and consumer law.

    From 2000 to 2007 I argued the case within and to auDA Panels, and other national fora, for the development of orderly, open and competitive secondary markets, e.g. see (1) & (2).

    It would be nice to know what if anything auDA and/or ACCC are doing in relation to the issues raised in this blog thread.

    Ian Johnston

    (1) SETEL Submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission: .au Domain Name System Regulatory Regime being Implemented by the Au Domain Administration Limited (auDA), 10 Dec 2001; Concern 2: Prohibition on transfers of domain name licences
    https://webarchive.nla.gov.au/awa/20050619120756/http://www.setel.com.au/publications/members/subs/065.htm

    (2) Submission to auDA: Comments on Issues Paper, 2007 released by auDA’s 2007 Names Policy Panel, Ian Johnston, June 2007
    https://webarchive.nla.gov.au/awa/20151120235809/http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/31316/20181030-1029/www.auda.org.au/assets/pdf/policy/2007npp/2007npp-issue-JOHNSTON-Ian-sub-johnston2.pdf [Note: Only the first of 7 page PDF Submission is viewable on my iPhone’s multiple browsers.]

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  • Scott.L
    February 14, 2021 at 5:57 am
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    Drop is the last man standing because the auDA board and the Minister failed to ensure market competion thrives.

    I would ask the auDA board and the Minister weather or not they would operate the expired auction in the same way as drop.

    Afterall, the expired auction process forms part of australian internet infrastructure, therefore, it requires a clearly defined policy framework to manage and facilitate that auction process.

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