August 17, 2017

Australian domain registrars sued for alleged billing scam

The ACCC accused registrars Domain Name Corp Pty Ltd and Domain Name Agency of invoice deception.

Announced last week, The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has filed legal charges against a pair of local domain name registration companies for their alleged involvement in a billing scam that dates back to 2015. The two companies, Domain Name Corp Pty Ltd and Domain Name Agency, who share a common director, have been accused of duping their customers out of USD 1.8 million over the course of the last two years.

While under the directorship of Steven Bell, both companies are supposed to have dispersed around 300,000 unsolicited notices that were designed to appear like renewal reminders for domain names to their customers. The ACCC claims these notices were actually for the registration of new .NET.AU or .COM domain names at a cost between USD 190 and USD 220. Many businesses who received these notices paid them, according to the ACCC, thinking they needed to renew as the domain names in the notices were designed to be ‘very similar’ to their existing domain names. Instead, they unwittingly signed up for a new one.

While explaining the situation, ACCC Deputy Chairman, Dr Michael Schaper, had this to say:

The ACCC alleges that because these notices looked like they were renewal invoices, many businesses paid them thinking they were simply renewing the domain name for their business.

The ACCC is alleging that the businesses were instead unwittingly signing up for a new domain name ending in either a .NET.AU or .COM suffix that the business might not have needed or wanted. It is alleged that the notices sent out by the Domain Companies offered domain names that looked very similar to the business’s current domain name. This detail and the fine print disclaimer were easily missed.

The sole director of both companies, Steven Bell, is believed to have been involved in the deception, with the ACCC seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective advertizing, and disqualifying orders against the director.

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