Property business sunk after domain dispute

A Sydney Web-based business has been stripped of its registered domain name with only 24 hours notice by an administrative body, after it was found to have "wrongly lapsed" from its original owner early last year.

A Sydney Web-based business has been stripped of its registered domain name with only 24 hours notice by an administrative body, after it was found to have "wrongly lapsed" from its original owner early last year.

After receiving an e-mail on Tuesday from Australia's domain name administration authority auDA, Danny Widjaja, the former owner of propertymatch.com.au, was left to inform his staff and a major investor that business was closed due to a dispute over the new Web site's domain only a month before it was due to go live.

"auDA only gave me 24 hours notice to give the domain name back to the original owner. I'd spent a year developing an entire business plan around it," said Widjaja in an interview today.

The dispute arose after it was found that auDA had incorrectly allowed Widjaja to register the domain last year, despite the fact that it had already been renewed by its original owner -- a mistake that was only discovered by auDA more than 12 months later.

Widjaja said he had to tell his major financial backer that the business was no longer viable without the name, and was forced to let go of two full time staff as a result of the decision. He said the investor is now pursuing the return of AU$50,000 in collateral that it outlaid for the business.

Brett Fenton, chief operating officer of domain name and Web hosts NetRegistry -- the company which hosted Widjaja's site -- told ZDNet.com.au today that Widjaja's business had been scuttled due to a "completely arbitrary decision" by the regulator. He said that the original mistake occurred during the 21-day "lapse" period when a domain name becomes deregistered and returns to the marketplace if its owner hasn't renewed it with auDA.

According to Fenton, the domain name was not being used at the time, and since being revoked from Widjaja it has returned to dormancy.

"You would have thought the CEO of auDA would try to mediate a sensible outcome, it's ludicrous that someone no longer using the domain should complain and cause this to happen," he said.

Fenton continued: "Why wasn't a service alert sent to the registrars 12 months ago and an attempt made to reconcile the registration and renewal dates?"

Executive director of the Cyberspace Law and Policy centre David Vaile said it was potentially a failure in governance by auDA to have taken so long to discover the problem, and then to have given Widjaja "such an unreasonably short period to rectify matters".

Speaking at the University of New South Wales a fortnight ago, German academic Martin Backes was critical of the authority and claimed that its dispute resolution process was inadequate.

"It's a symptomatic issue with auDA, issues like this should be brought to the attention of the wider domain public," he said.

auDA representatives were not available for comment.

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