There are still tens of thousands of .eu domain name owners in the UK whose websites and attached email addresses have been suspended since the start of January, but they have now been granted an extra three months to comply with new rules – before their domains are withdrawn for good.
Eurid, the registry manager of .eu domain names, announced the extension of the deadline as an opportunity for domain owners who haven't done so yet "to demonstrate their compliance with the .eu regulatory framework."
The UK's Brexit transition period ended on 31st December 2020, meaning that the country effectively ceased to be a part of the EU first thing in 2021 – and with that, many UK citizens lost their right to a .eu domain name.
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EU regulations effectively stipulate that .eu websites cannot be allocated to non-EU citizens who are residing in a country that is not a member state. As a result, Eurid was forced to suspend up to 81,000 non-compliant domains from 50,000 users based in the UK on 1st January 2021.
A suspension means that the domain can no longer support any service such as website and email, but it is not a complete withdrawal. Users were initially given until 31st March 2021 to update their registration details in order to meet the EU's eligibility criteria and be re-instated.
Eurid said that over 8,000 of the suspended .eu domains from the UK have now been re-instated. For the remaining 73,000 who are yet to comply, the additional three-months extension has now brought the deadline to 30th June 2021.
"On 1st July 2021 the domain names will be placed in the "Withdrawn" status," warned Eurid, meaning that domain owners who fail to update their details by then will see their domain name permanently taken away and made available again for general registration from January 2022.
To comply with EU regulations, domain owners should change their registration data, either by linking it to an address in the EU, or by indicating their own residence in a member state; or by proving their own EU citizenship. Domain names will be re-instated as soon as contact data is appropriately changed, confirmed Eurid.
The deadline extension is the latest of a series of regulatory changes imposed by the European Commission (EC) onto the EU registry manager. In 2018, the EC initially proposed that .eu domains run by British citizens based in the UK should be cancelled altogether immediately after Brexit, which infuriated the owners of the roughly 300,000 domains.
Critics argued that the move went against industry best practice to let domain names reach their natural expiration date, and violated the right to property. Eurid eventually announced that new rules had been agreed with the EC to grant more time to .eu domain owners to find ways to meet eligibility criteria.
That time has now been further extended by a few months, and hopefully will allow more .eu domains to survive Brexit. Eurid has pointed, however,, to the fact that the regulatory uncertainty has already caused a huge shrink in numbers over the past few months: while there were over 300,000 .eu domains based in the UK in 2017, there were only 120,000 registered in the last quarter of 2020.
Many UK owners, therefore, seem to have abandoned their .eu name altogether and instead set up a new domain to which they re-directed their traffic.