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Australian Federal Court Judgement On Domain Scam Delivered

December 17, 2018

The Federal Court of Australia has ruled a domain registration business has fallen afoul of Australian Consumer Law provisions relating to misleading and deceptive conduct.

The case of Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria v Domain Register Pty Ltd (which is not connected to our company), dates back to activities that occurred some years ago.

Court documents indicate the firm sent out 437,819 unsolicited standard form notices to 301,083 registrants of .com.au domains between 1 January 2011 and 30 May 2014 offering registration services of similar .com names. However, the notices were designed in the style of an invoice and many recipients were likely to have understood it as an invoice for their existing .com.au domain name.

The Federal Court has ordered the company to publish a notice in various publications that states in part:

"The documents sent out to particular persons appeared deceptively similar to invoices for the registration of a domain name that was deceptively similar to a domain name that the person had already registered for, thereby epresenting that the payment of $249 was for the registration or renewal of the person’s existing domain name when in fact the payment was for the registration of a new domain name that the person had not requested."

As part of redress, the company will need to issue refunds to those who request it, subject to conditions outlined in the notice. The notice is also required to be published on the company's websites.

Additionally, the firm has been forbidden from sending unsolicited notices containing an offer to register a domain name that is substantially similar to a domain name already held by the recipient, without clearly stating the notice is not a bill.

Further details of the case, the public notice to be published and judgement, which was delivered on Thursday, can be viewed here

The policy authority and self-regulatory body for the .au space, auDA, published a warning about the situation back in 2011. While it happened some time ago, these types of schemes still occur today. Registrants should review any communication that appears to be a renewal notice very carefully to ascertain its authenticity, and if doubt, contact their registrar to confirm.

Registrants who believe they have received unsolicited and misleading marketing material in relation to their Australian domain name should contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Pick up some tips for recognising and avoiding falling victim to domain name scams.

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