ICANN should review gTLD policies, says FTC in .sucks row


ICANN should review gTLD policies, says FTC in .sucks row

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The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has responded to ICANN’s request for it investigate the price of the .sucks domain name by suggesting the organisation should review some of its generic top-level domain (gTLD) policies.

In a letter dated May 27, Edith Ramirez, chair of the FTC, said ICANN would benefit from assessing its rules on a “broader basis” rather than investigating the conduct of one particular registry.

In April, ICANN asked the FTC and Canada’s Office for Consumer Affairs to investigate the price of the .sucks domain name. Vox Populi, the registry managing .sucks, is suggesting registrars charge trademark owners $1,999 for a registration.

The domain was due to go on general sale on June 2, but the sunrise period has now been extended to June 21 after Vox Populi said not enough brand owners were aware of the period ending so soon.

Ramirez raised a series of concerns that she said ICANN needs to address, such as consumer confusion and the screening of applicants attempting to register (gTLDs).

She recommended that ICANN introduce a requirement that owners of gTLDs “prominently identify themselves” on the home page of their website.

She referred to the conflicting marketing strategy of .sucks, where domain names are targeted at both “activists” to allow customers to vent complaints about businesses and “executives” from companies to improve customer satisfaction. Such domain names, she argued, could confuse an internet user about whether the website belongs to the brand.

Ramirez also said she was “particularly troubled” by the ICANN board’s rejection of advice from the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC).

For instance, before the rollout of the first new gTLDs, the GAC advised ICANN to introduce screening methods for users purchasing sensitive domains names that would have required them to disclose their intention for the domain.

Instead, ICANN just requires registrants to disclose information about who they are.

“This more lax approach increases the risk of consumer fraud because bad actors will not hesitate to make false representations about their credentials. Moreover, problems will become apparent only after victims complain and will have to be handled individually in the absence of a more concerted approach,” Ramirez said.

John Jeffrey, general counsel of ICANN, said: “We greatly appreciate the chairwoman’s stated understanding and appreciation of the importance of the concerns ICANN had conveyed regarding the .sucks gTLD rollout, as well as the broader set of consumer protection issues relating to the new gTLD programme that the FTC has re-stated in the letter.

“The FTC’s comments on consumer protection issues throughout the new gTLD programme have been an important part of the dialogue of the ICANN community relating to these topics,” he added.

John Berard, chief executive of Vox Populi, told TBO that he was “not surprised” by the FTC’s response, stating that the registry was operating “well within the lines of ICANN’s rules”.

He added that the recommendations are “food for thought” for ICANN.

FTC; ICANN; .sucks; gTLDs; domain names; Vox Populi; John Jeffrey; Edith Ramirez; Federal Trade Commission

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