The Advertising Standards Authority has told a domain name registry to withdraw a direct mailing after receiving complaints that it misleadingly exaggerated the importance and status of its content and was distressing and intimidating to recipients.
The company, called the Domain Registry of Europe--which operates out of a business suite on London's Gloucester Road--had been sending out mail that featured an image of the European Union flag next to the words "Domain Registry of Europe". Under the words "important notice" (in capitals), the mail recommended that recipients renew their domain name "at least 30 days prior to its expiration to avoid any 'Registrar Lock'."
"Should your current registrar lock your domain name you will be unable to renew your domain name at what are likely to be the new lower prices offered by our firm," it continued. "Renew today to avoid being forced to pay higher prices. Failure to renew your domain name... may result in a loss of your online identity, which may make it difficult for your customers and friends to locate you on the Web... Deregulation of domain name registration now allows the consumer the choice of their registrar... You are under no obligation to pay the amounts stated below, unless you accept this offer... This notice is not a bill, rather an easy means of payment should you decide to register or renew your domain(s) with us".
According to the ASA, the advertisers argued that the words "Important Notice" were valid because most recipients were probably unaware that the domain name industry had been deregulated. The advertisers maintained that the advertisement informed recipients that they were under no obligation to renew their domain name with their current registrar, said the ASA.
Given that the advert combined the image of the company name and the European Union Flag, the ASA found that the overall implication was that the mailing was an official notice. It concluded that the mailing misleadingly exaggerated the importance of its content and was "concerned that the advertisers had not sent evidence to show that they were able to renew or take control of domain names".
The ASA was also, it said, "concerned that the mailing might distress some recipients".
The Domain Registry of Europe said it had no comment.