Today we have a guest post by Robert Kaay. For those that don’t know him, earlier this year we published his very honest and illuminating 3-part series “My First Year As A Domainer”. If you haven’t read it, I can recommend it! I’m proud to call Robert a friend of mine.
He is a substantial part of the auDA “ecosystem” – his business is both that of a domain investor and domain broker. Over the past two years, he has worked hard at building his business. To do this properly, he had a fast learning curve about auDA policy. He also reached out to many people within the Australian domain space for advice. Robert took some expensive hits initially, but, as any successful business person does, he learnt from them. Or so he thought.
His opinion piece today raises some very serious concerns he has about how certain auDA policies are managed. He also makes some excellent points about flow on effects with certain registrars (particularly Netfleet). I sincerely hope that the “powers that be” at auDA and Netfleet take Robert’s criticisms and opinions on board (in the spirit that are intended).
As Bill Gates once famously said; “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”.
Trials & Tribulations With auDA – by Robert Kaay – 8th September 2016
Two years ago I wrote a blog about having a domain name forcefully removed from me. I wrote about it over at my old Domain Broker Australia website. In particular, the blog detailed how someone at auDA had protected a real word (Flybys) and had placed it onto a “prohibited misspellings” list. How the most powerful Australian drop-platform-service (Netfleet) was double-dipping fees on this particular name. Double-dipping, because as soon as the licence for the name was purchased, the name was swiftly being taken from the new owner due to auDA policy, and then the license for the name was being re-sold, over and over, again and again.
If you’re interested in reading the long version of what happened, feel free to visit my original post from a few years ago here.
I was new to the industry back then. I’m talking three-months new. Still, I instantly fell in love with the power of names on the internet and could see the potential of their future digital real-estate-type value. I was very bold in my intentions, so, even though I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, I registered the business name Domain Broker Australia with ASIC and bought the domain name, and off I went.
And here we are roughly two years later.
Domain Broker Australia has morphed into DBR (dbr.com.au) and I love helping old and new clients, every day, get their hands on their own dream domain names.
In light of recent Australian domain name forum discussions and comments recently made on Domainer.com.au, I have felt driven to revisit the blog post I wrote two years ago because of two main reasons:
1. Nothing Has Changed
Netfleet are still double-dipping fees on names they know are going to drop and be purchased and then be taken away from the new owners again and again.
I have come to realise there is basically only one person over at auDA that deals with complaints. Her name is Vanessa, and she was the sole person I was dealing with at auDA regarding this matter at the time. I now have a stronger opinion of how I believe she wrongly dealt with my situation at that time. Especially due to my recent dealings with her.
So Here’s My Take On It
First up, I should point out from the get-go that there is a new business manager at Netfleet called Nikki Scholes. She has only been on board at Netfleet for a few months, so she obviously had nothing to do with Netfleet double-dipping me two years ago. From all recent accounts from various domainers; Nikki is a breath of fresh air for Netfleet and has made herself very available to be contacted for problems and opinions over at the Netfleet camp.
And that’s great.
The fact that Nikki has been seemingly brought in to stand in the middle of Melbourne IT and the directors of Netfleet, seems to be a strategic, albeit, good move by the powers that be over there. I have no doubt the uproar made by domainers exactly one year ago (over some dodgy practices Netfleet were involved in back then) had a lot to do with finding someone like Nikki to take over the day-to-day running of the show and improve Netfleet’s credibility and customer relations.
Back to what I was saying.
Three days ago, Ned wrote a blog on this website entitled “Identity Thief Finally Nabbed”.
Ned wrote about how scammers are using ABN numbers from companies they have no affiliation with to secure strong Australian .com.au domain names. Ned has been very pro-active and at the forefront of putting a stop to these sorts of activities. No one pays him any money to do this and he should be commended for his efforts in protecting the quality of the Australian domain name space.
These bunch of names were taken from the scammer, with no refund, and were promptly put back on the drop-platforms so people could bid for them, and pay for them all over again.
In the comments section of the post, a well known domainer named Snoopy commented:
“What happened to the money?
Is Netfleet planning on making a double-profit from their customer’s illegal activities by keeping all the money and then re-auctioning the same names again when they get deleted?”
It was great to see Nikki from Netfleet answering his question:
“Regarding rights to the money, this is a grey area. There are costs involved and at the time we believed the purchases were legitimate. The domain industry is still young and there are a few things that need ironing out.
The Australian domain name industry has existed for 21 years now. I guess we could still see it as a young industry because most Australian businesses don’t understand just how powerful acquiring the best domain name for their businesses can be.
What’s really interesting though is when Nikki says “this is a grey area”, and although she’s only just come onboard at Netfleet, I don’t think any of us domainers could have said it better ourselves.
Technically, if Netfleet are now admitting that double-dipping could be occurring in some “grey areas”, and are willing to admit they probably shouldn’t be profiting from known domain names that keep appearing on the drops, then it may be time to refund my $64.25 that I requested two years ago (plus interest).
And let’s not forget the domain name in question that I had purchased. Flybys.com.au
And with my recent research into what has been happening with this name, two years down the track, I am now even more concerned about this whole double-dipping ongoing-epidemic in the Australian domain name industry. Because I can now see auDA has allowed a massive corporation to own my old name, for basically next-to-nothing. But we’ll look into that in a few moments.
I admit I was new to the industry two years ago and I wasn’t up to speed with all the auDA policies back then, as I am now… BUT, the fact remains that Flybys (a real word) appeared on auDA’s Prohibition on Misspellings Policy List. Sure, that’s not Netfleet’s fault. However, it should NEVER have appeared on auDA’s magic prohibited misspellings list in the first place.
Is it right though, that Netfleet promote the name at the top of their list to thousands of people to buy, knowing it sells over and over again, and is taken away from buyers, over and over again? Without so much as a warning?
Two years later, nothing has changed. This is still happening.
Misspellings and obvious trademarked domains are still being pushed by Netfleet. I won’t give any recent examples because of possible ramifications to the new buyers.
Perhaps now that Nikki is here as a breath of fresh air at Netfleet, she can finally put an end to this double-dipping problem? And I know this could also relate to Drop and Domain Shield (the other two main Australian drop-catching platforms) but let’s face it, Netfleet are the biggest and if they perform this change, surely the other drop-platforms will also implement it?
This now brings me to my second major point that I would like to reflect upon.
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?
Let’s get back to my own example and how this still relates to what is happening to this very day, two years down the track.
Flybys is the plural for Flyby, WHICH IS A REAL WORD. As in; NASA’s satellite did a FLYBY of Mars.
Two years ago, when I received my standard cookie-cutter Policy Delete letter (meaning the name was going to be stripped from me and I would receive no refund from Netfleet), I wrote to Vanessa to defend why I had purchased the name (which I’ll explain in a minute).
It was clear from her robot-template-cut-paste response that Vanessa didn’t care. She didn’t respond personally at all. She just placed the name into Policy Delete and 14 days later had the name deleted from my control and put back on the Netfleet cash-cow gravy train.
I complained to Netfleet and Mark responded saying they were not going to give me back my $64.25. Basically, it was my bad luck that I had bought it. Even though it was a real word, and this wasn’t the first time this had happened with this name.
A few weeks later (as documented on my blog post), Netfleet DOUBLE-DIPPED on the fees for their service and sold the name for $102. That’s just free, never-ending cashflow for Netfleet. No wonder they don’t want it to end!
It gets better though.
The new person who bought the name had it stripped from them too.
And do you know who owns the name now? As in, TODAY, two years later?
COLES SUPERMARKETS AUSTRALIA PTY LTD
I wonder how many times Netfleet sold this name from the dodgy “Prohibition on Misspellings Policy” auDA-super-duper-protection bubble, that SHOULD NOT HAVE APPEARED ON THAT LIST because IT IS A REAL WORD, as I pointed out to Vanessa (auDA) at the time.
auDA protected that name (again, it’s a real word!) for a MASSIVE CORPORATION, I guess by classing it as a “similar” name. But, guess what?! It is not a similar name. IT IS A REAL STAND-ALONE WORD.
Vanessa was made aware that this word was a REAL WORD, yet she did nothing about taking if off the Misspellings List. She allowed person after person to pay for a name that was going to be taken from them. The name was ripped from the new buyers time and time again, every time, stating there had been an “official complaint” made against the licence of the name, with robot-template-copy-paste cold-as-ice responses. And Netfleet took the money again and again from it.
COLES SUPERMARKETS AUSTRALIA bought MY NAME that was WRONGFULLY RIPPED FROM ME for under $100.
It must feel awesome to be a massive corporation and have FREE PROTECTION by auDA for obscure, distantly related domain names associated with your business.
Get ready for this…
You’ll never guess what?!
Flybys.com.au now redirects to…. yep …. Flybuys.com.au (with the U in the name).
But here is some EVEN BIGGER NEWS THAT YOU WON’T BELIEVE!!!!!!!!!
If you go right now to the auDA Prohibited Misspellings List
YOU WILL SEE…
That auDA have REMOVED flybys.com.au OFF THE PROHIBITED MISSPELLINGS LIST so that no one can use this policy rule against COLES SUPERMARKETS to take the name from them!
Flybys.com.au IS NO LONGER on the Prohibited Misspellings List.
What a coincidence?!
Take a breath.
I know, I can’t believe it. It is CRAZY how this is allowed to happen.
What I am proposing is very simple.
I have been screwed over and many people after today are going to continue to get screwed over.
Some Simple Questions
- Who was the single person responsible for having flybys.com.au TAKEN OFF the Prohibited Misspellings List? auDA should answer that question. If it wasn’t one single person, WHO were the people involved in making that decision and what is the reason?
- When Vanessa sends an email to someone quoting her standard “auDA has received a complaint about the domain name you have just licensed”, how do we know that Vanessa isn’t just making this complaint up herself?
This Is What I Think
What I’m starting to put together, using my experience of domaining for around 4 hours a day, seven days a week, over two years is…
To me, it looks like auDA is creating “special rules” to protect massive corporations, while normal everyday businesses and start-up companies have to walk a thin-line of fear, praying that Vanessa doesn’t rip their name off them for some trivial and technical reason hidden in auDA policy. And if anyone stands up about being mistreated by Vanessa, what will happen to all their other names? Will they all be taken away from them too for trivial reasons?
Does this sound like a “fair” system auDA is running? Does the complaints handling process sound fair, when it’s basically one single person making decisions on millions of Australian domain names?
It makes me wonder if there is some sort of special arrangement for this type of situation, where big corporations are having dozens of names added to the Prohibition of Misspellings Policy list. Some of them REAL WORDS. And then, once they have acquired the name, the name no longer appears on the Misspellings List. Is this some sort of lurk? I’m not saying it is, but how can we tell?
I was legitimately using the name FlyBys.com.au for a courier company at the time called One Hour Delivery (I had a few drivers in Perth). I was following auDA’s “Domain Name Eligibility Rules” by having a “close and substantial connection” to the name, by performing delivery services in Perth as fast as “jets”, symbolically performing “flyby” deliveries.
Like I said in the beginning. I was new to the Australian domain name industry so I didn’t know all the in’s and out’s of the industry at the time. However, now that I buy and sell and broker domain names every single day for people starting their own businesses, as well as for large corporations, I DO know the in’s and out’s. I also now clearly know what is wrong and what is right with this industry. As do a lot of my domainer colleagues (who have been in this game longer than me, and I thank them for their advice over the years!)
So I’m Going To Say This
I think a lot of us have had enough of all this nonsense.
I have personally found Vanessa from auDA to be…. let’s say… “difficult” to deal with on a number of occasions.
It also comes across that she feels she has ultimate power at auDA and her verdicts should not be questioned. Her job at auDA appears to be a one-person JUDGE, JURY and EXECUTIONER. This is why I have had to go (and will continue to go) over her head a number of times at auDA to ensure proper judgement has been carried out, which, thankfully, it has.
Hopefully you remember from my previous posts on this website that I can type really fast, so I like to write pages and pages of my thoughts, but I will finish this up for now.
I would like to leave you with this though…
Recently I believe Vanessa may have also “created” a fictional complaint against a whole bunch of names I have registered.
The names are not your standard .com.au TLD’s, but according to auDA Policy I am legitimately entitled to license these names. TLD’s that no one has bothered to license over the last 21 years. No one appears to want them, so I have decided to register a bunch of them. It’s probably a waste of money, but anyway…
Vanessa has personally tried to strip me of these names on three occasions.
On the first occasion, Vanessa said I was not allowed to own them. Jo Lim overturned this decision.
On the second occasion, with no official complaint submitted to auDA, Vanessa took it upon herself to look over the names I had registered and found some of the DNS were incorrectly set. This saw them momentarily not obeying auDA policy for these specific TLD’s. But instead of notifying me and asking me to explain the situation (of how this accidental temporary error could have occurred and could it please be rectified) Vanessa chose to bypass me altogether, with no notice, and demanded my registrar place the names into policy delete for being against auDA Policy.
Some of the names she demanded my registrar to delete, I didn’t even own! It was just this massive list and it proved she hadn’t actually checked each name.
I was given no notice. No explanation. Just a message straight to my registrar to delete the names.
We are talking $1125 worth of names here.
My account manager at my registrar must have seen this as quite odd, as he notified me within minutes of this occurring so I at least had a chance to defend myself. I instantly contacted Jo Lim, and she revoked Vanessa’s decision.
On the third occasion, dated 19th August, 2016, Vanessa wrote me another email stating exactly, “auDA has received a formal complaint regarding your eligibility for the domain names listed above” and she quoted 41 domain names. One of the names she said I owned, I didn’t, because she spelt it wrong.
I instantly questioned her, asking how it was possible for someone to make a formal complaint against a huge number of names like this.
It has been two weeks now since I questioned her alleged “formal complaint” coming from her direct email address about these names and I am still waiting for an explanation from her regarding the matter.
As I stated to her in my recent email, the formal complaint she sent me looks “made up”. Especially because one of the names in the large list is so obscure and unpopular, I highly doubt anyone would be trying to complain against it so they could grab it for themselves.
The thing about this large list of 41 domain names that she is claiming someone has made an official complaint about me is; how and why would someone have spent dozens of hours of their life typing in obscure words and suburbs to put together a list this large? Just so they could make an official complaint against me? Remember, there is no way any of us can just type in an owners name, and see all the Australian domain names that a particular person owns. You have to literally think up a name, manually type it in, and see who owns it. Then move to the next name. And if you do this too many times from the same IP Address, AusRegistry locks you out from accessing the database for 24 hours anyway…
I would like proof from her that the complaint isn’t made up and I have requested she tell me the name of the person to prove they actually exist, because I don’t believe they do.
Maybe she will prove me wrong? I will let you know if she proves me wrong in the comment section below. Still, at this stage, I am quite certain that no real person making a “formal complaint” against these names exists.
- auDA should not be protecting massive corporations by including REAL WORDS on their magical prohibited misspellings list.
- Netfleet (or any other drop-catching platform) should not be allowed to keep taking money, month after month, from names that everyone obviously knows are not allowed to be licensed in the first place (unless the appropriate company contacts a registrar directly to prove they meet auDA Policy and are allowed to own it).
- Scammers who illegitimately use another companies’ ABN should NOT be issued refunds.
- From my own personal dealings, Vanessa appears to me to be acting indiscriminately and irresponsibly, and is out of control in her role as “Complaints Manager” at auDA. I personally don’t believe she should continue to be the first port-of-call, sole-judge, jury and executioner of the Australian domain name space. Perhaps auDA can take a look at Netfleet’s recent decision to hire a few people as customer-focused and personable as Nikki Scholes?
And My Last Point
Complaints made against a domain name to auDA should be made public. Otherwise, how do we know all the complaints are legitimate?
It’s called transparency, and it’s time auDA was more transparent, across the board. Otherwise, perhaps they shouldn’t be the sole company in charge of our much-respected domain space!