Nominet is taking action against domain-name registrars who opportunistically register domain names to assess how much money can be made from them, then delete them if they generate insufficient returns.
The official .uk domain-name registry announced on Monday that it would impose limits on the number of registrations that can be deleted in an effort to stamp out the practice, which is known as "domain tasting". Nominet will also crack down on organisations that register and delete domain names perpetually, to avoid paying for registration.
Nominet hopes this will put a stop to its automated registration service being abused in this way.
"We're taking action now to prevent this becoming a major issue," Eleanor Bradley, director of operations for Nominet, told ZDNet UK.
"We have to offer the ability to delete, but we don't want the system used to assess the monetisation potential for registrars," Bradley added.
Nominet says domain tasting is a problem because it doesn't offer a level playing field for legitimate companies and individuals which want to register a name that has been taken. It also slows down the registration process.
"This practice is a breach of Nominet's acceptable use policies and places unnecessary load on its systems, potentially jeopardising access for other users," said Nominet in a statement.
To date there has been no limit on the number of domain names that can be deleted. From 8 August, registrars will only be able to delete 5 percent of their registrations or five domain names, depending on which is greater. No domain tasting will be allowed at all.
"The limit on deletions for practices such as domain tasting is zero. If we detect any uses of the delete operation on our automatic system other than the correction of registration errors, we will take action against the registrar," said Bradley.
Those guilty of domain tasting could be suspended from the system, and Nominet will terminate its contract with registrars who habitually offend, meaning they would have to perform their registrations through another registrar. Nominet will monitor deletion patterns through its automatic registration system.
"There's an early warning mechanism in place, so we can spot-check the use of the deletion system," said Bradley.
The company became aware of domain tasting last year when it started to affect .com domain names. According to the registry, over 90 percent of .com domain names are cancelled within a week, before payment is due.
Nominet has seen the number of .uk domain names being tasted rise from less than 1 percent to between 2 and 3 percent over the past year.