A question we get asked a lot at Domainer and DBR is, “auDA are threatening to take my domain name from me, what can I do?“.

Well, first of all, I always inform people that the ‘auDA Complaints Team’ is basically just three people judging the outcome of a domain complaint.

At this moment in time, their names are;

  • Steph Viljoen
  • Mark Bouke
  • John Tomic

Many times (in my personal opinion and experiences) their judgement of a domain name dispute is based on their own personal opinion and personal interpretation of the related policies. Which means, many times (in my personal opinion and experiences) their decision ends up being wrong.

The moral of the story is; you shouldn’t give up defending your domain name if any of the following is occurring with it;

  • You are in the right (best to confirm this with industry colleagues).
  • The domain consists of one or two generic dictionary words.
  • The domain is a geographic location.

There are dozens and dozens of examples where the auDA complaints team have been in the wrong in the past.

Here are just a few…

In 2006, NetRegistry (via ITWIRE) publicly disputed a decision made by one of auDA’s complaint team and stated;

“NetRegistry disputes auDA’s interpretation of their own policy rules. We feel its findings in this matter are yet again arbitrary, petty and arrogant,” says Larry Bloch, CEO of NetRegistry. “We have decided to refuse to comply with auDA’s request that we delete these names to highlight the abuse of our customers’ rights to the names they want. To our knowledge, auDA has not received a complaint or a competing claim for these names. They are acting 100% arbitrarily,” says Bloch.

Circa 2006

And let’s not forget the article I wrote for Domainer back in 2016 about the auDA Complaints Manager of that period;

Exactly how has Vanessa from auDA been allowed to manage complaints and disputes over the last eight years, as a single Judge-Dread like character, seemingly able to enforce her own personal understanding and interpretation of auDA policy with an iron fist? Handling disputes and enforcing policy and taking domain names away from businesses who don’t have time to get up to speed with all the auDA policies, all on her own?

Circa 2016

To me, four years on from the above, not much has changed.

Lets now move on to a recent example of how the auDA Complaints Team lacked compassion when performing one of their famous ‘warranty checks’. auDA policy-deleted the generic domain name ‘Java.com.au’ just this past weekend.

Earlier this year, a young entrepreneur paid $500 to purchase this one-word domain name from the drop auctions.

The word ‘Java’ is a geographic location. It’s an island of Indonesia. The word was first used in the year 1805. There are 37 Australian trademarks for the generic term ‘Java’ because a multitude of businesses can use the term for various reasons.

Last month, an anonymous person made a complaint against his ownership to auDA and, as you will read below, the owner responded that he would “soon” be using the domain name as an acronym for a new business.

Let’s not forget here though, ‘Java’ is a “geographic location”, just like Rottnest Island. So he also simply could have just responded this statement.

Anyway, after informing auDA he was “soon” going to be using the domain for his business, they rejected his response.

He then asked for a review of their decision.

Instead of letting the domain owner keep the domain, after paying $500 to legitimately purchase it from the auDA-approved drop process, auDA sided with the ‘anonymous vexatious complainant’, deleted his domain name, and also rejected his right to have the complaint reviewed.

This is how auDA responded to him;

Good afternoon XXXXXX,
Unfortunately your case does not warrant a review.  The reason for this is the auDA Published Policies clearly states the following:

2008-07 – Mandatory Terms and Conditions Applying to .au Domain Name Licences

1.2  the registrant meets, and will continue to meet, the eligibility criteria prescribed in auDA Published Policies for the domain name for the duration of the domain name licence;

You stated the following – “This domain is relevant as a service provided by XXXXXX Accessible Virtual Accounts (J A V A) is a service soon to be available to approved XXXXXX online marketing clients. It provides access to records of marketing activities such as media outreach, search optimisation, web analytics and advertising accounts via an easily accessible, virtual account manager portal. By taking advantage of cloud accessible API connections J A V A and aggregating business intelligence data with a range of reporting methods we can ensure that business owners and marketing managers are aware of their online marketing and results.”

You must meet the requirements below at the time of registration.  Which you clearly have not and therefore the name will stay in policy delete.

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

10.5  In com.au and net.au, the categories of close and substantial connection are:

a) a product that the registrant manufactures or sells; or
b) a service that the registrant provides; or
c) an event that the registrant organises or sponsors; or
d) an activity that the registrant facilitates, teaches or trains; or
e) a venue that the registrant operates; or
f) a profession that the registrant’s employees practise.

The domian name – java.com.au will stay in pending delete and auDA will now be closing this case.

Steph Viljoen 
Manager Compliance and Analytics
.au Domain Administration

From the above response from auDA, If we look at the fourth paragraph down, where the domain owner responded to auDA, you can see auDA highlighted the section; “soon to be available“.

In the paragraph above (third paragraph), you will see auDA also highlighted; “The Registrant meets“.

You see what the auDA Complaints manager did there?

Because the domain owner had said his services would “soon be available”, one could imagine the auDA Complaints Manager possibly thinking; “WE’VE GOT HIM!”. All because he didn’t technically “meet” the criteria RIGHT NOW because he said the words, “soon to be available“.

Boom. Your domain name is being deleted. auDA don’t care that you’re about to lose $500. auDA don’t care that “java” is a geographic location. Here’s your robot template and a justification of why auDA need to employ a “complaints team”.

Some people might think that I’m being a bit overdramatic here, but just tell that to the scores of legitimate domain name owners who’ve lost thousands of dollars worth of domain names because a few people who work at auDA over the years have made personal decisions to take their domains.

We’re hearing a lot of entrepreneurs and Australian business people are sick of auDA’s lack of compassion towards people who own a number of domain names.

Domainer is here for you.

Please let us know if auDA is threatening to take your domain name from you. We’re not saying auDA are “wrong all the time”, but, if what they’re doing is not-right, we’ll be more than happy to help expose the truth.

10 thoughts on “Should I trust auDA’s decisions?

  • Avatar
    April 25, 2020 at 7:01 am

    Thanks for standing up for the domain community Rob. My single biggest issue with auda is their lack of compassion and transparency. They usually don’t provide their name of who is emailing you which reinforces the look of them being a faceless organisation, they don’t try to encourage, guide or lead people down the right path. They only seem to have a single tool in their toolkit, which is a hammer.

    They have such potential to be a beacon of guidance for Australian businesses and entrepreneurs wanting to build the future. Instead in my experiences they are always close-minded, lurk in secrecy, and entirely unpredictable.

    4 people like this.
    • Avatar
      April 25, 2020 at 8:14 am

      Spot on, Luke.

  • Avatar
    April 25, 2020 at 8:00 pm

    “Gadens acts for domain name owner in inaugural application to auDA”

    Gadens has acted on behalf of Mr Jim Stewart, CEO of StewArt Media, and Search Global Pty Ltd (together, the Applicant) in the first application to be dealt with under the Registrant Review Panel Rules (the Rules) administered by the governing body of .au domain names, the .au Domain Administration (auDA).

    In February this year, Mr Stewart was given notice that the Applicant business’ primary domain name, stewartmedia.com.au (the Domain Name), would be deregistered on the basis of an alleged breach of auDA’s published policies (in this case, due to the body noted on the record as the registrant being a deregistered company). Following unsuccessful internal review of the decision by auDA, the Applicant engaged Gadens to apply for review of the decision by an independent panel (the Panel) appointed under the Rules.

    On 23 April 2018, the Panel found in favour of the Applicant and set aside auDA’s decision to deregister the Domain Name. The application clarifies who can be the “Registrant” for the purpose of making an application under the Rules, and what constitutes sufficient evidence of an intention to transfer a domain name.

    Firms involved: Gadens

    Deal area: Intellectual Property & Technology

    Practice groups: Intellectual Property & Technology

    Key players: Gadens partner Antoine Pace led the matter, with the assistance of Alida Vandewiele (Lawyer)

    Decision significance: Despite the Panel review process being available since 2012, this is the first application made under the Rules. In making his decision, the Panel Chair not only set important precedent as to the interpretation of the Rules, he also recommended auDA consider making various changes to its own policies (including the Rules).

    In its news release on 23 April 2018, auDA acknowledged the decision and foreshadowed that it is “currently examining the [decision] to identify whether any changes are required to existing policies”.

    We believe the decision is an important precedent for the domain name industry and future applicants under the Rules.

    The full decision is available on auDA’s website here:

    “In responding to the company’s objection, the auDA Registrant Review Panel outlined that the company had proved its ownership, and suggested that in future, web domain registrant agreements contain more explicit reminders to people to update their details, for example by having an upper-case reminder on the documents.”

    6 people like this.
  • Avatar
    April 28, 2020 at 9:20 am

    As mentioned on Domainer in previous articles I believe the main problems with the domain complaint process is allowing complaints to auDA or the Registrar to be anonymous – https://domainer.com.au/anonymous-domain-complaints/

    2 people like this.
    • Avatar
      April 28, 2020 at 9:25 am

      Agreed Brent. I and a number of other people have been saying this for years!

      • Avatar
        April 28, 2020 at 12:25 pm

        And what would you do with the information if you knew who made the complaint because that’s obviously the issue here and the reason why complaints are anonymous?

        • Avatar
          April 28, 2020 at 1:58 pm

          There are many positive reasons.

          For starters, it would deter potential domain thieves from submitting vexatious complaints because the general public would be able to see WHO made the complaint. From that information, we could all possibly understand the reasoning behind each complaint, instead of just taking one or two auDA Complaint Team people’s personal ‘judge/jury/executioner’ opinion and reasoning.

          It would also be important for complainants to state WHY they are making the complaint. From that information, the general public and domain name community could possibly understand the INTENTION of the complaint.

          Is the intention legitimate, or is it simply someone trying to steal someone else’s domain name?

          auDA must LOVE the current complaints process. One or two people rule the decisions and rarely have to justify their reasoning.

          Anonymous likes this.
  • Avatar
    April 28, 2020 at 9:51 am

    Around 18 months ago, auDA wrote “auDA’s compliance team often receive panicked calls from businesses whose website and emails have stopped working because their domain name licence has expired.”

    They recognise that, “For many businesses, this is a genuine crisis.”

    Yet there are many examples of auDA wrongfully deleting domain names or allowing them to be given to another party. Surely this would also feel like a crisis to the parties concerned?

    Someone should count up the number of times auDA have made a decision, and then the auDRP process has proven them wrong…


    Anonymous likes this.

Comments are closed.