Stockpiling of .eu domains can't be stopped

Nothing can be done to stop the hoarding of .eu domains, says the organisation in charge of administering them
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

A registrar and reseller of .eu domain names has denied accusations that his business has operated unfairly by stockpiling over a thousand three-letter domain names and charging customers over a thousand pounds to buy each one.

Stephen Wilde, of Hampshire-based company Really Useful Domains Ltd, told ZDNet UK that it was an "idealistic approach" to suggest that stockpiling was unethical.

The accusation came from Andrew Hooper, a new father who recently wanted to take advantage of the new .eu top-level domain (TLD) to give his two-week-old son Christopher James a "domain that he can use during his life".

Hooper was dismayed to find that cjh.eu was one of hundreds of domains that had been bought up by Really Useful Domains Ltd, which specialises in acquiring three-letter domain names and reselling them at a minimum of €1,500 (£1,015) each.

Registrars of .eu names are unable to register names for themselves and then sell them on — a practice known as warehousing — as this would be a breach of their contracts with EURid, the organisation set up to administer the TLD. Last month, EURid launched a lawsuit against 400 American registrars it accused of warehousing.

However, as Wilde and his company registered all the names through a Canadian third party, no rules had been broken.

Nonetheless, Hooper maintained that registrars had the market "sewn up". Speaking to ZDNet UK on Wednesday, he said: "You have to go through a registrar and they're monopolising the market. EURid has… allowed anyone who puts down a €10,000 deposit to have a share of this monopoly.

"There are no decent investigations into these companies — they don't seem to be enforcing the spirit of the law, let alone the letter of it," he added.

But Wilde argued that registrars had only "really had an advantage over the public" during the initial land-rush for .eu domain names, which took place earlier this year. "Now it makes no difference at all whether you're a registrar or not," he said on Wednesday.

He insisted that Really Useful Domains Ltd had not even been an accredited registrar during the land-rush, and played down the suggestion that people should not be able to stockpile names for resale at inflated prices.

"I think it's a very idealistic approach and, if you could guarantee every human on the planet would adhere to that, it would be fine, but it's not," he said. "I'm afraid if they didn't put enough rules into enforce it, you only need one person in the globe to...

... not adhere to that and we'd all wring our hands."

Wilde pointed out that thousands of Europeans had children who bore the same initials: "On a mathematical basis… you have probably about 20,000 people entitled to that domain for their child — which one do you give it to? [EURid] tried to start the playing field fairly, but after that it's not my job to say 'you're more entitled to this' or 'you are'."

He also claimed that he had been unable to acquire the three-letter domain for his own son, and had even tried to "buy a car registration for him but it was £25,000 pounds", adding: "I would like it but someone else has it. That's market forces".

EURid itself seems to agree with this standpoint. Representative Patrik Linden told ZDNet UK on Wednesday: "It should be possible for anyone to register domain names and as many as they like. If they find someone to pass the domain name to there's nothing we can do."

"We're not particularly fond of this, but it is allowed," he added.

In the lawsuit filed against hundreds of US registrars, EURid accused them of conspiring to set up three front companies in the UK and then registering tens of thousands of .eu domains in those companies' names, thus attempting to bypass EURid's rules on registrars stockpiling names for their own benefit.

That case and other complaints over allocations during the land-rush phase led a British Member of the European Parliament, Diana Wallis, to file a parliamentary question on the subject for the European Commission (EC). A response is due later this month.

A spokesperson for the EC told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that, as EURid was "an independent agency", the EC "does not have any supervisory role".

Although the EC was unable to comment on Wallis' question prior to the official answer being given, he added that there was a "set of rules under which EURid has to operate and we have to ensure this framework is observed".

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