Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Dirty tricks or caveat emptor?

Someone has a domain that they have had for over a decade.

This entitles them to the corresponding .uk domain. However, they have not registered the .uk domain, and are in fact selling the domain via a broker. Nobody else can get the .uk domain for 5 years!

Someone buys the for several hundred quid, via the broker.

They pay the money.

The next day the seller:-
  1. Registers the corresponding .uk domain in their name as per their entitlement, and then,
  2. Transfers the domain to the buyer. They keep the new .uk version.
They waited until they had made the sale and been paid before getting the .uk domain, lulling the buyer in to a false sense of value for the domain along with its entitlement to the .uk domain at the time of the sale.

But the contract via the broken had no option for conditions such as "with the right of registrations to the .uk" or some such. Just standard terms.

Was that a dirty trick, a breach of an implied term, or was it valid?

Whatever, it is something for anyone to watch out for when buying a domain. It is also a potential money spinner for anyone wanting to replace their with a .uk domain.


  1. The whole 5 year delay for .uk's is annoying. $Client wants the .uk version of their acronym, the is held by a semi-governmental body, who don't want to sell it, or the .uk. All they can do is wait 5 years, but that seems excessive, a year would be enough IMHO.

    1. I was amused by Nominet ISP FAQ on this. It was "if my customer with a does not want the .uk can I register and transfer it?" answer "No".

      Well that is wrong. You can do a deal with the owner to say that you register the .uk (in their name) and then buy the .uk from them, if you want. It is not difficult.

    2. Yep, I even checked with Nominet that what I proposed to them was OK, (i.e. that they buy the .uk then sell it to us) and they said it was fine. Sadly they didn't want to sell it.

  2. In my view, this is fraud and deception on part of the seller. At the exact point of sale of the domain, the seller has given up all rights to that domain, including the right to register the .UK version. Thus, if their intent is to register the .UK version before releasing the one (the scenario you have described here), that is fraud and deception. If Nominet then take the .UK registration request from the seller, and act upon it, they are also guilty of committing fraud as they are acting on behalf of the seller. Obviously, Nominet are only going by what their WHOIS database is telling them, but in my opinion, that's their problem (something they should be validating as part of their duty as a responsible domain registry), as the seller has not been sold the full features of the domain in its entirety eg. the itself, and the optional ability to register the .UK version if they so wish.

    If I was to pass judgement of such a case in court, this is how I would see it. Whether our legal system sees it in the same way, I have no idea (I'm no legal expert).

    Obviously, if the seller registers the .UK version before any sale has occurred, then there is clearly no longer an issue - seller now owns two versions of the domain, which are no longer linked in anyway and have become two independent domains and can be sold separately from each other.

  3. Actually, I've just had a discussion in work about this with an interesting "logical" outcome. The right of registration is linked to the registrant of the domain, not the domain name itself. So, as much as this feels completely wrong, legally it looks to be right, as selling the would mean a registrant change and the right of registration is then lost.

    There's still a loop-hole in my opinion though, and that is due to the fact that the point of sale and the change in registrant/transfer of the domain on the Nominet database is not atomic, allowing the seller to register the .UK version before releasing the one to the buyer.