ICANN plans to sue scandal-hit domain name registrar Registerfly.com tomorrow, saying the company is putting its customers’ estimated 2 million domain names at risk.
And in an unprecedented move, ICANN has persuaded the four major generic top-level domain registries to lock down all Registerfly’s customers’ domains for a month, so they cannot expire and then be hijacked by speculators or domain traffic monetization firms.
ICANN said in a letter to Registerfly Friday that Registerfly is refusing to hand over data about its customers’ domains, as required by its registrar accreditation agreement, and that it will enforce the contract in court by filing suit on Tuesday.
Registerfly is over two weeks into a bitter coup d’etat in which now-CEO John Naruszewicz ousted former CEO Kevin Medina and sued him, claiming Medina had been siphoning off customers’ money to pay for expensive escorts, a penthouse apartment and cosmetic surgery.
The customer web site Registerflies.com, which has been the social hub and occasional customer support channel for aggrieved and panicky Registerfly customers for the past weeks, also contains allegations of a criminal nature against Medina, which we were unable to verify.
Customers say they have been losing their domains, and thus their web sites, email addresses and in some cases livelihoods, as they have been unable to renew expiring domains or transfer them to another registrar. In some cases they say they have paid multiple times and lost domains anyway.
Nowadays, when a domain registration expires it is almost always re-registered immediately by automated systems run by domain speculators and/or domain parking firms. The original registrant often has to pay a premium to get their former property back.
ICANN, the de facto regulator of the domain name industry, stepped in over a week ago — customers say that was a year too late — threatening to cut off Registerfly’s accreditation if the problems were not resolved within 15 business days.
It also demanded Registerfly hand over copies of its customer data, so that registration rights could be protected if the company was in fact in terminal decline. Registerfly refused to hand over the data, according to correspondence published by ICANN yesterday.
The ICANN letters claim two more breaches of the registrar agreement, and a promise to sue.
Not able to get its hands on the data, ICANN has got VeriSign, NeuStar and Afilias, which run the .com, .net, .biz and .info namespaces, to lock all pending-expiration Registerfly domains into a Server-Delete-Prohibited status.
This will prevent them from being deleted from the registry and becoming available for re-registration by others, ICANN said.