Annotated Text of the Missing FTC "Consumer Alert" My
comments in red
FTC Consumer Alert!
Hot Dot? Not. Domain Name Registration Scams
What's in a name? Plenty, if you want to register a website. New scams are targeting would-be
website owners by offering the opportunity to pre-register names in new top level domains, and
offering access to unofficial top level domain names. Domain names, such as "ftc.gov," are the
unique terms that enable Internet users to locate a specific website. The top level domain is the
final extension, such as ".com" or ".org." Wait a minute. Why is offering access to so-called "unofficial" TLDs a "scam"? Is new.net a "scam"? Are the ICANN TLDs "official"? If so, does the US government now accept that decisions about them are subject to US Constitution and statutes regulating official activity?
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency,
scam artists are taking advantage of the news that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names
and Numbers (ICANN) is making new top level domains available to the public. The new top
level domains are .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name, and .pro. Now, we have some more trouble. First, none of these names is official yet, since
none have been approved by the Department of Commerce. Second this paragraph fails to
distinguish between the proposed .biz to be operated by Affilias and the actual, existing (if rather tiny), .biz, run by Leah Gallagos.
The FTC says consumers are getting unsolicited faxes and emails that offer a chance at a name in
a new top level domain, for a fee, as soon as it becomes available. Some registration services are
guaranteeing new top level domain names, Yes, ICANNWatch recently
discussed press releases from ICANN and Neustar promising new TLDs in advance of federal
approval promising preferential treatment in the registration process, Yet, preferential approval for big businesses and other trademark holders is
the essence of the 'sunrise' proposal being used by Affilias in its .info proposal, while the milder
preferences for trademark owners offered by Neulevel in its .biz plan are being attacked by big trademark interests as failing to give them sufficient preferences or taking unauthorized pre-registrations for extensions like ...coop.
Additionally, some operators are offering unapproved extensions, such as .web. The suggestion that there is anything fraudulent about Chris Ambler's .web registry, which has as far as I know has always been open about its absence from the ICANN
root appears to me to be utterly unfounded. These offers and claims are misleading.Actually, it's this
paragraph by the FTC that is misleading.
The organizations that are responsible for assigning the .biz and ...info domain names have
adopted procedures to assure that access to new top level domains is done fairly.I beg to differ. Why is it fair to give preferential access to .info to businesses with
trademarks, and not to individuals, non-profits, churches, activists and others who have equally
legitimate commercial and non-commercial interests in our shared language? All
requests for .biz domains to ICANN-accredited registrars will be combined and randomly
selected. Again, this leaves out the 'sunrise' aspect -- the time when
some are more equal than others. All requests for .info domains will be considered in a
round-robin selection process. That is, only one randomly selected registration request from each
of the ICANN-accredited registrars will be processed per round. It is likely that similar
procedures will be adopted for the .name and .pro domains.
The National Cooperative Business Association, the Societe Internationale de
Telecommunications Aeronautiques SC, and the Museum Domain Management Association will
establish the eligibility and registration procedures for the .coop, .aero, and .museum domains
respectively. No other organization or business is authorized to set eligibility requirements for
The FTC advises consumers to protect themselves by:
1.avoiding any domain name registration service that guarantees preferential treatment in the
assignment of new top level domain names. Stay away from services that claim to increase your
chances at getting a new top level domain. Hmmm. The only organization I know of that has every claimed to be able to affect my chances of getting a top level domain is ICANN. They wanted $50,000 for it. Is the FTC saying that was a scam? If so, it would hardly be the first to suggest that. Alas, the FTC probably means second level domain here. But wouldn't that suggest that this 'sunrise' thing is a scam?
2.registering only in approved top level domains (.com, .net, .org, ...aero, .biz, .coop, .info,
.museum, .name, and .pro). Domain names with unapproved extensions are not readily found in
routine Internet searches nor can email be directed to those sites. Here is
where the FTC really loses its grip. Recall that as a legal matter, from the average Internet user's point of
view, the choice to patronize the DoC-ICANN-DNS is a private choice. Users who point their machines to it do not do so under any legal compulsion. As regards the individual's decision where to resolve
DNS queries, the DoC-ICANN root and an alternate root are legal equals although the DoC-
ICANN root has an overwhelmingly dominant market share. To understand just how outrageous
this statement of the FTC's is, just imagine that four or five years ago the FTC issued a statement
warning consumers not to buy any unix-based word processors because most documents are in
Word format, and unix-based programs produce TeX and .ps files that Microsoft Word cannot read.
3.reading the disclosures and fine print before paying any pre-registration fees.
4.avoiding doing business with people who send unsolicited faxes and emails - regardless of the
offer. Unsolicited faxes are illegal.
5.dealing only with ICANN-approved registrars. The ICANN website, www.icann.org, has a list
of registrars. Again, the FTC takes sides, against legal, legitimate, if somewhat marginal (at present) businesses. Non-ICANN registrars selling
entries into alternate roots who are clear about what they are doing are engaged in a fully lawful
activity. Those who fail to disclose that their names won't resolve on the majority of users' computers are indeed running a scam, but it is odious for the FTC to lump the two groups together. If that wasn't enough, it stifles competition.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices
in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To
file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free,
1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the online complaint form. The FTC enters Internet,
telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure,
online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies U.S. and
abroad. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION FOR THE CONSUMER 1-877-FTC-HELP
www.ftc.gov. I hope this is not a representative sample of the FTC's
work on e-commerce issues.
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