OFT clamps down on domain name scheme

The Office of Fair Trading says it won't tolerate misleading claims that encourage businesses to register domain names

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has clamped down on an individual who it says used misleading sales tactics to persuade companies to register a new domain name, following numerous complaints from businesses.

The OFT said on Wednesday that businesses had been told that a third party was interested in registering a domain name similar to their own business name, and that they had a short period of time to register the name before it was claimed by the third party.

The person behind this activity, Adam Ripley, was unable to provide evidence that these third parties existed and has agreed to cease the practice. The OFT claimed that Ripley was behind a number of domain name registration businesses, including Solus Online Ltd, ISIS Online Ltd, Select Registrations and European Domain Bureau.

John Vickers, chairman of the OFT, said businesses should not allow themselves to be coerced to purchase domain names.

'Businesses should be wary about cold-callers putting pressure on them to purchase domain names in haste," said Vickers in a statement. "Claims that third parties are interested in names must be substantiated and we will take action where such claims are misleading."

This is not the first time that the OFT has taken action against a company that has put pressure on businesses to buy domain names. In December 2003, it took action against Swansea-based Internet Registrations Bureau Limited which was engaging in a similar practice.

A report in 2001 found that the complainants in domain name disputes won 82 percent of the time when they took their complaint to the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

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