Shonky Domain Brokers?

Today we have another guest post from Robert Kaay of DBR – an Internet Brokerage Firm. Whilst only entering the domaining world just a few short years ago, Robert is now arguably Australia’s best domain broker – he has some tremendous results under his belt. Like his recent sale of Fetch.com.au and PD.com.au – both featured on DN Journal.

Like me, Robert abhors people or organisations that get involved in shady practices when it comes to the buying and selling of domains. He has called out scammers many times. All we want is a competitive, ethical environment in the Australian domain name industry.

Sometimes you can identify a situation where you know there is a real problem, but you just need to get all the facts together before you can make a solid accusation and “name and shame”.  Today’s story is one of those – a warning to people out there – and an indicator that more is to follow! From what I know, this is definitely a case of “buyer beware”. And just for clarification, this is not about Netfleet!

Hope you enjoy Part One.


Is This A Domain Brokerage Scam Or What?

Author: Robert Kaay of DBR – (Internet Brokerage Firm)

I am currently working on an article regarding a so-called Australian based “domain brokerage” firm who I feel are doing a lot of harm to this industry.

The reason I feel this way is because various ex-employees of the company are calling me, asking for a job. Various customers who’ve been “burned” are also calling me, asking my advice on how to get their domain names back. It appears customers of this “brokerage firm” are being “guaranteed” they will receive a domain name recently lost, only to often find they don’t get the name at all.

This “brokerage firm” phones businesses up a few hours before the daily drops, every day, telling them they’re about to lose their name, then requests a payment (if successful) to secure the name. I’m told 20% to 30% of businesses are surprised they are losing the name, and agree to the terms.

However, as we all know, the really good names go for a lot of money on the drops. When this happens, the so-called “brokerage firm” then tells the business unfortunately they were unsuccessful in winning the name, but, there’s no need to worry because, “for $800 we will perform an A-U-D-A complaint and get the name back for you!”. And they take the money for this service up-front, and then submit the auDA complaint within 24 hours.

As regular readers of this forum know, an A-U-D-A complaint is a free complaint made to auDA. So, in theory, this “brokerage firm” is charging $800 for their service of submitting the complaint, whether they are successful or not.

When taking this $800, does the “brokerage firm” know the complaint will be fruitless, but takes the money anyway?

I have written proof of this happening recently from at least one of their angry customers. (Some wish not to be publicly written about.)

When I heard the so-called “brokerage firm” had taken $800 to make a complaint against another business who had legitimately won the name on the drops, I helped the winning business (at no cost) retain their name, and guided them on how to have their name taken out of Policy Delete, successfully.

Meanwhile, what happens to the business who payed $800 to the “brokerage firm” to make the complaint?

This story is developing – more to follow.

Rob Kaay – 1st June 2017


Disclaimer

22 thoughts on “Shonky Domain Brokers?

  • Avatar
    June 1, 2017 at 10:22 am
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    Against the AUDA policy too (not that it would be enforced)

    https://www.auda.org.au/policies/2004-04

    5.5 A Domain Name Supplier may make an offer to a Customer for Products, provided:

    a) it is clearly identified as a solicitation for business;

    b) there is no mention of, or cross-reference of any kind to, a specific existing Domain Name or related information such as expiry dates, unless:

    (i) the Registrar is the Registrar-of-Record for that Domain Name Licence; or

    (ii) the other Domain Name Supplier has a current Written Agreement to act on behalf of the Registrant with respect to that Domain Name Licence;

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  • Avatar
    June 1, 2017 at 10:44 am
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    Thanks Rob for bringing this to light. A business friend was recently contacted by some so called experts offering to get her name back. High pressure tactics.

    Jeff

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  • Avatar
    June 1, 2017 at 11:20 am
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    Thanks for the heads up, looking forward to follow up articles, great job Rob!

    And just for clarification, this is not about Netfleet!

    lol!

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  • Avatar
    June 1, 2017 at 11:31 am
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    Not much of an expose if the company is not named.

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    • Ned O'Meara
      June 1, 2017 at 1:01 pm
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      @Scooby – you’re skim reading as usual. It’s a two part story – today was a teaser.

      Sometimes you can identify a situation where you know there is a real problem, but you just need to get all the facts together before you can make a solid accusation and “name and shame”.  Today’s story is one of those – a warning to people out there – and an indicator that more is to follow!

       

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      • Avatar
        June 1, 2017 at 1:06 pm
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        Who is being warned by this Ned?

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        • Ned O'Meara
          June 1, 2017 at 1:18 pm
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          You’re in one of those moods obviously Snoopy.

          Again, it is a teaser article for the main story to come.

          • Avatar
            June 1, 2017 at 1:19 pm
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            Well, let’s hope it comes soon and that Robert actually names who he is accusing.

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    • Avatar
      June 1, 2017 at 1:33 pm
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      Maybe hold your breath and count to ten, before you make all your negative posts, Snoopy.

      This article is the start of a bigger picture. The end result is obviously to warn end-users. It just requires a little patience and vision before being shot-down prematurely.

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  • Avatar
    June 1, 2017 at 1:07 pm
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    How is an AUDA complaint “fruitless” if they managed to get a domain sent to Pending Delete?

    I know I’ve never managed to get a AUDA to act on any complaint.

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    • Avatar
      June 1, 2017 at 1:44 pm
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      Good question Michael.

      In one case I have an example of, there was a small technicality, but a ten-second phone call would have shown them it was fruitless. How often is this company making a complaint the moment they don’t win a domain back for their client? Every day?

      Even in this specific case, is it right that as domainers and domain brokers, if we don’t win a name, we hop right on over to the auDA website and make complaints every day out of spite? Or make the “anonymous” complaint for someone else and take $800 for it, knowing it’s probably not going to work?

      If there’s a name I’ve lost on the drops and I am super keen to have it, I phone the lucky bidder up and ask if I can pay them double, for a start. Although most times it ends up being quadruple before they’ll let it go… Still, I don’t roll over to the auDA site and submit a complaint!

      I believe this particular example needs to be discussed, so it’s good we’re already talking about it.

      The next article should clear this up a little more for everyone, and bring about some more great discussion.

       

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  • Avatar
    June 2, 2017 at 12:59 pm
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    I had this happen to me, but they screwed up. I bought a domain about three months ago on the drop and the next day a girl call me up and told me that I was about to lose my domain name, and for $195 (I can’t remember the exact amount, but it was approximately $195) they could get that name back for me.

    Anyway, I let her do her whole pitch because I had never heard of this before. When I told her that not only was I the new owner but the name had already dropped the previous day, she started backpedaling.

    She never mentioned the $800 complaint route, probably because she realised she was talking to the new owner not the old one.

    I had the same thought as you did Rob. How sad that some innocent domainer or end user might have to waste time on a complaint made against them.

    Mark

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  • Avatar
    June 2, 2017 at 1:42 pm
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    Robert,

    Lodging a complaint with auDA is a long and frustrating process which requires a fairly high level of policy knowledge. To charge $800 for that service is not the craziest thing I have ever heard occurring in our industry.

    If they explained the service to their client and that it was a pay up front and not a pay on success then this is certainly not a scam. If the complaint was lodged and investigated and sounds like it even got into a pendingDelete for a period of time then it does not sound like a frivolous complaint. So again this does not sound like a scam.

    You and I have both helped out people we encounter free of charge in order to “do the right thing” BUT that does not make all the people out their, charging for their time, scammers… in theory it makes them smart business people who probably have more coin in their pockets than we do… but that does not in and of itself make them bad people or offering a bad service… at the most it could be called expensive.

    When it comes to the morals of lodging an auDA complaint… well again I don’t do it often (conflict of interest) and you also don’t do it (seems like a dirty tactic) but if a domain is not conforming to the stated auDA policy then a complaint can be made and we have to rely on the safeguards in place (which seemed to work)  to keep an innocent registrant from losing a domain name.

    With regards to wasting people time… well auDA reject something like 80% of complaints without involving Registrars and Registrants so mostly it is auDAs time being wasted and since it is their policies this seems reasonably fair. According to the article there was a small technical issue which had to be cleared up for auDA so it does not sound like an innocent registrant wasting their time, it sounds more like an inexperienced registrant learning the ropes/paying their school fees as they learn the rules.

    I for one also do not agree with naming and shaming anyone in a self written article online. If a law has been broken then contact the police. If a company is operating a scam or deceiving people then contact ACCC. If you do want a company named and shamed in print then submit your side of the story to an independent journalist who can expand on the story by seeking comment from the other party and then publishing a more balanced report.

    I hope this helps by providing an alternative viewpoint.

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    • Avatar
      June 3, 2017 at 6:14 am
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      I have finished lmao about your suggestion of going to the cops. Get real. There have been many shysters that have been exposed online by domainers. Dicker and Clements are two. Without them being named and shamed on forums and blogs like namepros, many more people would have lost $$$$$. Other victims came out of the woodwork when those shysters were exposed. If Robert has proof, then he has a duty to spill the beans. Then the broker can refute or sue. This reads like there’s a problem, so broker will either ignore or try and blow up a smoke screen.

      • Ned O'Meara
        June 3, 2017 at 9:21 am
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        @Kiwi – talk to many experienced domainers and bloggers, and unquestionably the “name and shame” route is the most expedient. As you say, it serves a purpose by warning others.

        Having said that, most respected domainers and bloggers won’t go to print unless they know that the story has legs.

        There is a big difference between an isolated whinge from a dissatisfied punter – and a pattern of behaviour.

        I also look forward to Robert “spilling the beans”!

    • Ned O'Meara
      June 3, 2017 at 9:09 am
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      @Anthony – thanks for your alternate point of view, but I’m going to disagree with you on your penultimate paragraph.

      I’m aware of the basis of Robert’s story, and I know from other sources that these particular brokers have got a “reputation”. They have previously been mentioned in dispatches on other blogs and forums as well.

      I don’t have a problem with any entreprenerial activity with regards to selling names off the expired auction list. e.g. Domain Protector has being doing this effectively and legitimately for some time. Good on them. NF have had their problems in the past with telemarketers (who can forget “horsefloats”), but that was before Nikki’s time.

      But if this crowd that Robert refers to are making promises that they know they might not be able to keep (and earning substantial fees from doing so), then they deserve to be exposed imho. However, let’s defer judgment until we read Robert’s second part of the article. I understand he has sufficient information to back up his story.

    • Avatar
      June 3, 2017 at 4:08 pm
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      Appreciate and respect your alternative viewpoint, Anthony.

      As you can read in my article, I am simply raising awareness to this issue and I am very interested in hearing everyone’s ongoing opinions going forward.

      I’m not saying I’m perfect myself, or that I don’t like to make money in my business, or that people shouldn’t be paid for their time and services. But as we all know in this industry, there are right and wrong ways to go about things. I know you personally don’t like the “name and shame” route, but some of the rest of us think it is a great option to warn potential victims (especially small business!) and may even help stop new domainers entering the industry from making the same mistakes.

      I’m also not saying I’ve never made an auDA complaint before, because I have stated publicly that I have, but there has to be a very compelling reason for me to make one. I believe this should be the case for everyone who makes a complaint.

      I have reason to believe this so-called brokerage firm is making many complaints per week. If they are taking the money up-front, knowing that the complaint is probably not going to work, I’m personally not okay with that. Then, like I said, businesses are calling me up asking to justify what happened to them, as they are frustrated that the so-called brokerage firm will no longer take their calls.

      It’s a moment like this when one may decide to write an article…

      Perhaps we should all be lobbying auDA again for “anonymous” complaints to be made transparent? Then it would be easy to see who is blatantly using the system for solely-monetary reasons, as opposed to who is making a complaint to protect Australian domain name credibility. There’s obviously a big difference.

      I would have no problem at all having the one or two complaints I’ve made in the past , or the one or two I may make for the rest of this year, public.

       

      • Avatar
        June 3, 2017 at 9:31 pm
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        If it is true what you say that the complainant is making multiple complaints per week knowing that a majority are not going to succeed then they will quickly find themselves classified as “vexatious complainants” and they will be blocked from lodging further complaints. You can also create an industry complaint if you think they are being vexatious and get them cut off even sooner.

        If businesses are calling you up and complaining that they did not get a service they paid for and the company is not taking their calls anymore, then just advise them to request a charge back if they paid by credit card (the company will then be forced to prove to the bank that they provided a service and if enough people do this then their gateway facility gets cut off).

        People should also be aware that if they are talked into a sale via the telephone (especially using high pressure sales techniques) for a service that costs more than $500 then they are entitled to all sorts of interesting rights. Most importantly they are entitled to a cooling off period of 10 days, during which time the company making the sale cannot accept payment and the service cannot actually be provided. This means the buyer is entitled to request a full refund and to lodge a complaint with the ACCC if they do not succeed.

        Calling for transparency around complaints annoys me. 1) It is irrelevant 2) It encourages vigilantism

        Basically auDA complaints are anonymous because the complainant is irrelevant. The only way to lodge a complaint is if a specific auDA policy is being breached at which point it is between the registrant and auDA to resolve.

        What would YOU do with the information relating to the published complainant? Go beat them up? Write articles about things you don’t like about them? Check if their ABN is expired and lodge a complaint against their domain to they can “see what it feels like”? How is any of this constructive, productive or even something for grownups to consider?

         

        • Avatar
          June 4, 2017 at 5:01 pm
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          I know the options you mentioned above exist. In some industries, making formal complaints to the system works fast and well…

          Not in this industry. Hence, here we are.

          I’m not happy that the concept of transparency around complaints annoys you, but I must say it annoys ME that it doesn’t exist. So what do we do now?

          In regards to your question of, “What would I do with the information relating to the published complainant?”, not sure where you were going with your “…something for grownups to consider?” paragraph, but I’ll try and explain, as a grownup.

          I believe I already explained it in a general sense. But, personally, if I could see the complaint was fruitless, I’d help the business who had the complaint made against them keep their name, for free, like I just did with this recent example (which I’ll name soon enough… and I hope people will see what a silly-fruitless complaint it was).

          I think you believe in auDA’s policy rules and rules of society in general to govern how our industry works, too deeply. In my experience, if we simply rely on the policy rules and the policy makers of the domain name industry to save us, justice hardly seems to prevail. The system and many of its rules in this industry are flawed and slow. There are some people, or businesses, who will take things as far as they can go with our Australian domain name space… get away with as much as they can while the slow “system” bumbles around behind them like a snail.

          Let’s face it. I’d say a very high percentage of the three-million-plus Australian domain name holders don’t even know auDA exists, yet alone call on them for help.

          I’ve seen too many good people lose out on domain names and money and waste their time, waiting for the “system” to help or protect them.

          I’ve learned that myself too, the hard way, many times.

          For the record, I’m not trying to bag-out auDA here, I’m just stating reality. There’s things going on over there at the moment that sees them putting “domain name complaints” on the back-burner. Addressing “complaints” and helping to “save names” is not high on their agenda right now…

          In fact, five days ago, the Policy Compliance Manager from auDA wrote directly to me and said, “Thank you again for bringing this to our attention Robert, your demonstrated commitment to maintaining the security of the .au domain space is very much appreciated.”

          This was in terms of my complaint against a scammer who had just registered outlet.org.au and was ABN hijacking.

          I think that some of the good, new staff at auDA know they need some help from the domainer community at the moment?!

          I won’t stand around and say or do nothing when I see this industry being damaged or watered down. When I’m receiving regular phone calls about dodgy practices. I won’t wait for the system or policy-police to do the right thing, when they find the time to get around to it. I and we (as domainers) have every right to protect our own industry.

          Policy managers and corporations come and go (look at Vanessa Stanford and AusRegistry – gone!), but it’s OUR future! (“ours” as domainers, as well as Australian businesses).

          It’s not in my character to think that, “everything’s going to be okay, there are rules in place to protect us all”, only to get a few years down the track and say, “oh no, how did this all happen?”

          I’m proactive.

        • Ned O'Meara
          June 4, 2017 at 6:00 pm
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          Now Anthony, you’re getting on your philosophical “high horse” again – particularly when you refer to what would “grown-ups” do!

          When you say:

          “Calling for transparency around complaints annoys me. 1) It is irrelevant 2) It encourages vigilantism

          Basically auDA complaints are anonymous because the complainant is irrelevant. The only way to lodge a complaint is if a specific auDA policy is being breached at which point it is between the registrant and auDA to resolve.”

          If complainants believe in their case, then they shouldn’t have a problem putting their name to a complaint. Even Erhan Karabardak thought so – and he’s now an auDA Director / Deputy Chairman.

          As did another current Director – Simon Johnson. As did the current Chair of auDA.

          Have a read here.

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