How Best To Handle An auDA Complaint

Complaints DFCIn all my years of domaining here in Australia, I think I can count the number of complaints I have received from auDA on the fingers of one hand.

The reason for this is that given domaining is my full-time business, I believed it was important from the start to understand the “rules” (auDA policies) – and abide by them to the best of my abilities.

However, I got one recently on a 3 letter domain, so I thought I’d share the process.

But First Some Background

  • Because auDA operates on a “complaints based system”, you will only ever get a complaint if someone makes a formal online complaint – and auDA deems that the complaint has validity. In other words, some part of policy has not been complied with.
  • Every week auDA gets many complaints. But what a lot of people don’t realise is that a huge percentage of these don’t even get past first base (because they are not valid complaints for a variety of reasons).
  • I’ve always found auDA staff very helpful and friendly. But it’s like anything in life and business – if you are courteous in your approach (and willing to listen), then generally this is reciprocated.
  • If you do get a complaint, you are given time to respond – and where possible and appropriate, to fix any breach of policy.
  • If the complaint is initially upheld, you do have the right to seek an internal review at no cost. And a second level of appeal process also exists via the Registrant Review Panel.
  • Contrary to urban myth, auDA do not dislike domainers. They simply expect everybody to comply with policy. That sounds fair to me.

Back in 2011, Jo Lim, Chief Operations and Policy Officer of auDA, wrote a very helpful article: “Domain Monetisation Policy explained”. (Domain monetisation is no longer a stand alone policy because it was incorporated into Domain Name Eligibility and Allocation Policy Rules for Open 2LDs (2012-04) )

This is part of what Jo said:

The final thing I’d like to say is that, contrary to popular belief, auDA does not have a vendetta against domainers and domain monetisation. Our role is simply to enforce the Domain Monetisation Policy. We strive to do this as fairly and consistently as we can, bearing in mind that some elements of the policy are inherently subjective.

We give all registrants a reasonable opportunity to respond to a complaint, be it during the investigation period before we make our determination, and/or during the 14 day pending delete period after the domain name has been deleted (policy-deleted domain names can be reinstated right up until they are due to drop).

Back To My Recent Complaint

I got a complaint from auDA on NGS.com.au – obviously made by someone who coveted the domain. 😉

Paragraph 3(a) (Schedule C) of the policy states that the “the content on the website to which the domain name resolves must be related specifically and predominantly to subject matter denoted by the domain name.”

We have reviewed the website displayed at www.ngs.com.au. Of the 15 monetised links that occur on this website, only 1 relates to ngs.com.au. Therefore we consider that the content is not related “specifically and predominantly” to the domain name.

In accordance with paragraph 5.3(a) of the Complaints Policy (2012-03) at http://www.auda.org.au/policies/auda-2012-03/, you must modify the content of the monetised website so that it relates specifically and predominantly to the domain name.

You must modify your website, and notify auDA that you have done so, by no later than 5pm on 16-Sep-2015.

If you do not take action as requested, then we will instruct the registrar of record to delete the domain name for breach of policy.

All my domains are automatically “parked” with Fabulous, and with 3 letter domains in particular, the advertising links don’t always relate to the acronym. But that’s not auDA’s problem – and they specifically say that the onus is on the registrant to provide relevant links.

So upon receipt of the complaint, I was quickly and easily able to resolve the issue. I created a 2 click lander (Fabulous offers this), and provided eight specific links to the acronym (as you can see below).

NGS Screenshot

Response From auDA

This was quick and efficient. They said in part:

We note that you have modified the content on the monetised website at www.ngs.com.au. In our view, the current content is related specifically and predominantly to the domain name.

auDA will not take any further action in relation to this complaint at this time. However, please note that if the content on the monetised website changes in future so that it does not relate specifically and predominantly to the domain name, then we reserve the right to delete the domain name without notice.

 

Conclusion

Whilst I have concerns at how easy it is for anonymous people to make complaints for their own ends (more on this another time), I believe the example above shows that the system works.

Not all complaints are the same though – so if you do happen to get one, make sure you always seek advice from experienced people. Particularly if it is valuable cyber property.  I’m always happy to give my opinion (no charge!) – and where necessary, I can recommend you to the best professional help.

28 thoughts on “How Best To Handle An auDA Complaint

  • September 20, 2015 at 1:51 pm
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    So how would a typical landing page at Netfleet (FOR SALE PAGE) for a 3 letter domain be sufficient to satisfy the Domain Monetisation policy?

  • Ned O'Meara
    September 20, 2015 at 2:06 pm
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    “I referred to policy in one of my posts on that thread”. Let me re-post that here because it is important.

    ———————————————————-

    But the following is the most important section of auDA policy. A lot of people don’t even know it exists – and they read the initial policy without reading this in conjunction!

    In particular read 11.4 (and the last sentence therein). Bolding is mine.

    —————————————–

    Guidelines on the Interpretation of Policy Rules for Open 2LDs (2012-05)

    11. ALLOCATION CRITERIA – “DOMAIN MONETISATION” IN COM.AU AND NET.AU

    11.1 In the com.au and net.au 2LDs, in addition to the categories of close and substantial connection listed in paragraph 10.5 above, it is also permissible to register a domain name for the purpose of domain monetisation under the close and substantial connection rule. Examples of domain monetisation include:

    a) resolving the domain name to a website or landing page containing pay per click advertising links (also known as “parked pages”);

    b) resolving the domain name to a website or landing page containing content such as general information, news articles, product reviews, blog posts and images, with the primary intent of generating revenue from third party affiliate or commission programs or pay per click advertising;

    c) resolving the domain name to a website that contains directory listings;

    d) redirecting the domain name to another domain name under a third party affiliate or commission program;

    e) using the domain name to provide featured advertising services; and

    f) using the domain name for traffic optimisation purposes.

    11.2 Registrants who register domain names for the purpose of domain monetisation do not fall into any of the categories of close and substantial connection outlined in paragraph 10.5. For example, a registrant who registers “shoes.com.au” for domain monetisation purposes does not actually sell or manufacture shoes; their intention is to earn revenue from the domain name in one of the ways listed in paragraph 11.1. The policy rules allow people to register domain names for the purpose of domain monetisation under the close and substantial connection rule, but with two conditions of use to ensure that the intent and integrity of the close and substantial connection rule is maintained.

    11.3 The first condition is that “the content on the website to which the domain name resolves must be related specifically and predominantly to subject matter denoted by the domain name”. This is intended to ensure that the close and substantial connection between the registrant and the domain name is visible and meaningful to users. If the content of the website does not relate to the domain name in any discernible way, then the close and substantial connection rule is not satisfied. auDA uses a “reasonableness test” to determine whether the content on the website satisfies the condition, ie. would a reasonable person regard the content as related specifically and predominantly to the domain name?

    11.4 The second condition is that “the domain name must not be, or incorporate, an entity name, personal name or brand name in existence at the time the domain name was registered”. This condition is intended to ensure that domain monetisation is not used as a cover for cybersquatting or other misleading or fraudulent activity. In determining whether a registrant is in breach of this condition, auDA will take into account whether the domain name is a generic word or may have an alternative meaning which is not related to a specific entity, person or brand.

  • September 20, 2015 at 2:36 pm
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    Hi Ned,

    Thanks for the reminder with this article about correct monetization of domains.

    What about a Fabulous page with ads, but also a selling price for the domain, instead of make an offer, is this ok? Or could it be argued that it was purchased for resale, which is against auda’s policy?

    • Ned O'Meara
      September 20, 2015 at 3:10 pm
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      John, with regards http://www.auda.org.au/policies/2012-04/; the actual policy clause reads as follows:

      “Prohibition on registering domain names for sole purpose of resale

      8. A registrant may not register a domain name for the sole purpose of resale or transfer to another entity.”

      I have written on this extensively in the past. The key word is “SOLE”.

      Let me give an example of what I believe auDA is trying to prevent. As I understand it, they don’t want someone to register JoesPlumbing.com.au and then immediately go out and try and flog it to every plumber called Joe.

      auDA is not against people selling domains for a profit. As a domainer, I have many domains all of which are “parked” under the “close and substantial” connection of domain monetisation. These earn me income; and they are also for sale. That is totally permitted (provided I comply with policy).

      As for your lander, a price tag is fine; or enquire now; or make an offer. Whatever. 🙂

      Imho.

  • September 20, 2015 at 2:38 pm
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    What if I purchased a 3 letter domain name several years ago which was an acronym for a service I offered and then decide to sell it via Netfleet landing page today. At first I would have been eligible under the AuDA rules.

    Would that domain name now be ineligible because it does not satisfy the domain monetisation rule? i.e. there is currently no close and substantial connection between the domain name and the current website (Netfleet Sales Page)?

    • Ned O'Meara
      September 20, 2015 at 3:14 pm
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      My understanding is that a registrant must at all times retain a “close and substantial” connection.

      But bear in mind, as I said in my article, auDA is complaints driven. Should someone complain (and auDA agrees there is a policy breach), the registrant will be given time to remedy the situation.

      Imho.

      • September 23, 2015 at 5:07 pm
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        Ned

        I am very intrigued by these comments

        I had a case with an LLL.com.au name recently where an active participant in the industry forums, blogs etc made a ludicrous offer for that name

        When I rejected the offer a complaint was made to aUDA on the basis that the parking page content did not conform with the monetization rules

        Obviously I have since rectified the content; but these actions did nothing but waste time and resources

        • Ned O'Meara
          September 23, 2015 at 6:49 pm
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          @ Greg – if it was the “active participant” that made the complaint, then that is simply abysmal behaviour.

          I referred to this in an earlier comment:

          With an online auDA complaint, anyone can complain anonymously at no cost. There is also nothing to stop someone submitting a complaint with a false name with a gmail address.

          You don’t need to be a genius to work out why people complain in the first place – there are many motivations.

          Imagine if complainants to auDA had to pay a small fee and put their real name to it. My guess is that complaints would suddenly head south.

  • September 20, 2015 at 3:25 pm
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    Great article Ned!

    It serves as a good reminder about auDA Policy. I find when dealing with auDA complaints, where you are not relying on monetisation via parking pages, that you keep copies of emails, logos and other evidence to support your position. We often see people, in effect saying ‘Im entitled to hold the domain, because….’ but can produce no evidence to support their claims.

    • Ned O'Meara
      September 20, 2015 at 9:12 pm
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      Thanks Erhan. You’re spot on. It’s all about dotting the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s”. 🙂

  • September 20, 2015 at 3:48 pm
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    Good article Ned. Yes auDA strive to be fair and reasonable and afford existing registrants every opportunity to defend their licence against latecomers attempting to acquire the name in an unscrupulous and underhanded manner. Unless the name in question is a pure trademark (eg. “Google”, “Visy”, “Suncorp” etc) complainants would be better off making an offer in good faith, rather than adding a 300% risk premium to any final selling price. One example that comes to mind is the New Zealand government’s attempt to hijack the name NewZealand.com from an investor in 2002. This failed and in the end they had to pay $1 million for the name. I wonder what the Gold Coast Tourism Corporation will now have to pay for GoldCoast.com given their recent failure to hijack the name via WIPO? $1.5-1.8 million surely.

    • Ned O'Meara
      September 20, 2015 at 9:22 pm
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      And there are definitely a few unscrupulous people around Tobias. Another example is when some “nice person” looks for expired ABN’s; Business Names etc – and when they find a good domain name attached to one of these, they place a backorder on the domain. Then a quick complaint to auDA in the hope that they will policy delete the domain. It then goes on the drop auctions etc; etc ………..

      • September 21, 2015 at 8:09 am
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        Yes we’ve seen that before a number of times on the drops. I suspect one of the major corporate consultants has been doing this in recent months. DIY.com.au is in pending delete for a second time in four weeks as we speak (the first time it appeared in the drop auctions the bidding went to $95,000 (on Drop.com.au)).

        Where the name in question is held by a deregistered (non-existent) company and not in use it’s a good thing that the name is deleted and made available to others. However, policy challenge on the basis of an expired personal ABN, expired business name or out of date contact details (eg. DIY.com.au atm) by a non end user is definitely questionable.

        At the end of the day, registrants are given plenty of opportunities to remedy things, for example they are given so many days to update their details/provide evidence that their deregistered company transferred the licence to another entity prior to deregistration.

        The lesson for all licensees is to recognise the value of their domain name and treat their Whois info like a Land Title, keeping their details up to date.

        • Ned O'Meara
          September 21, 2015 at 10:21 am
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          That is a great comment. Particularly your last paragraph:

          “The lesson for all licensees is to recognise the value of their domain name and treat their Whois info like a Land Title, keeping their details up to date”.

  • Luke Summers
    September 20, 2015 at 6:23 pm
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    Great article Ned.

    Thankfully, I’ve only had to deal with one complaint to date and I found auDA to be very professional throughout. The complaint came about because a prospective buyer didn’t like my price (they had made a low-ball offer prior to submitting the complaint). The outcome was in my favour and I still have the domain.

    I actually think the complainant did me a favour, because it gave me the opportunity to fine-tune my parking platform to ensure that it meets the policy requirements.

    • Ned O'Meara
      September 20, 2015 at 9:24 pm
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      The “unrequited lowball buyer” would have to be in the top percentile of complainants! Thank goodness auDA recognises this.

  • September 21, 2015 at 10:15 am
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    Good article Ned.

    The general public has a lot of misconceptions about the domain space and their perceived right to own or take a domain they feel should be theirs.

    The word “squatter” or “domainer” is frequently used with vitriol when they find “their” domain is taken. Hopefully auDA is helping educate these people along the way, I’d love to see some of the responses they send when a complaint fails at the first gate.

    • Ned O'Meara
      September 21, 2015 at 10:30 am
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      Thanks Cam.

      I received a very vitriolic series of emails from someone in Ballarat over the weekend accusing me of being a squatter. The domain in question was BallaratBookkeeper.com.au.

      He “proudly” told me (and I quote):

      “Its people like you that find loop holes to exploit that keeps people like Vanessa employed and puts local providers like me out of business because people like your self are not eligible for domain names that local businesses could use

      I have submitted more complaints then you can imagine to know what the policies are and not are, especially since i am the leading hosting provider in Ballarat Victoria & Central Highlands “

      My replies were polite (even though my thoughts weren’t) – and I simply kept giving him links to policy. I even “cut and pasted” whole paragraphs for him.

      He remained dogmatic though. 😉

      After doing a bit of research on him, I felt comforted. He is “in the penalty box” at Whirlpool for a whole series of other matters. LOL!

  • September 21, 2015 at 4:29 pm
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    Great article Ned. With regard to the last paragraph in the response from auDA:

    However, please note that if the content on the monetised website changes in future so that it does not relate specifically and predominantly to the domain name, then we reserve the right to delete the domain name without notice.

    Are you comfortable with this statement? I mean, what if for example Fabulous changed their lander code over night, and without you realising the content beached policy – do you think you would get another chance to change it, or is there a risk that the domain would be deleted?

    • Ned O'Meara
      September 21, 2015 at 4:45 pm
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      That’s a really good question Richard – and one that I hadn’t considered previously.

      My experience with auDA is that they are more than reasonable, and if an event like this happened, they would allow time to remedy.

      But let me ask and get back to you!

    • tim
      September 21, 2015 at 8:28 pm
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      richard thats a very good comment, and it certainly a question that needs to be answered, i know myself i have only recently moved into parking domains and i have 1 site that is for flowers but because of its name fabulous have put “makeup” adverts on it.

      now its STILL relevant……kinda, because its a very loose term, eg: dove v dove ( is it chocolate or soap ) but not relevant totally to my intention for the developed site, maybe thats a setting i haven’t figured out just yet ?

      tim

      • Ned O'Meara
        September 22, 2015 at 4:19 pm
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        @Tim – re your comment:

        I have only recently moved into parking domains and i have 1 site that is for flowers but because of its name fabulous have put “makeup” adverts on it.

        As per my article, it is the registrants responsibility to make sure that links are relevant on parked pages. Fabulous have a great feature where you can opt for a 2 click lander and put your own relevant keywords in. Just like the example in my post.

        So you need to master that. Given your great technical skill, this should take you a maximum of 2 minutes. 🙂 Email Cam or Katherine at Fabulous if you need help.

    • Luke Summers
      September 21, 2015 at 8:36 pm
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      You raised some valid concerns Richard, and it’s one of the reasons I invested in building my own parking platform.

    • Ned O'Meara
      September 22, 2015 at 1:58 pm
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      @ Richard – just got off the phone to Jo Lim at auDA, and she confirmed the following:

      1. As per their email, they do reserve the right to delete a domain without notice. But as Jo explained, this would probably only happen in extreme circumstances e.g. if someone “was trying to take advantage – or was perceived as purposely doing the wrong thing”.

      2. Nevertheless, even if this occurred, the domain would go into Policy Delete for 14 days, and the registrant would still have the opportunity within this time to try and remedy the situation.

      I’m happy with that. 🙂

      • September 22, 2015 at 4:10 pm
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        Good to know they take a common sense approach to things. Makes sense that they should reserve the right to hold a card up their sleeve too.

        Thanks for following that up 🙂

  • tim
    September 21, 2015 at 8:21 pm
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    “Whilst I have concerns at how easy it is for anonymous people to make complaints for their own ends”

    the reality in australia is that anyone can try to sue/complain/restraining order/ anyone any time about anything.

    i could sue domainer now! WHY, for something i just make up that they actually never did !

    as for domains you just need to have everything correct as per auda rules.

    tim

  • Ned O'Meara
    September 21, 2015 at 8:42 pm
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    Yes Tim, you can try and sue me or Domainer.com.au through the Courts or a Tribunal – but if you did, I would know that it is “you”. In other words, natural justice and due process dictates that I am informed who my accuser is. You would have to pay a fee – and put your name to it. If you believed sufficiently in your case, you wouldn’t have a problem in doing that.

    With an online auDA complaint, anyone can complain anonymously at no cost. There is also nothing to stop someone submitting a complaint with a false name with a gmail address.

    You don’t need to be a genius to work out why people complain in the first place – there are many motivations.

    Imagine if complainants to auDA had to pay a small fee and put their real name to it. My guess is that complaints would suddenly head south.

    Imho.

Comments are closed.