Network Solutions name locking suit

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Blake Ramsdell alerted me to this lawsuit over Network Solutions whois domain locking policy:
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Network Solutions has forced millions of people to buy Internet domain names from them instead of cheaper competitors through a scheme that's netted the firm millions of dollars, a federal class action lawsuit filed today by Kabateck Brown Kellner, LLP states. ICANN, whose policies facilitate the scheme, is also named in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court, Central District of California.

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Whenever someone searches for the availability of a domain name through Network Solutions' website, the company immediately registers the name for itself, preventing other companies from selling it and forcing consumers to pay Network Solutions' expensive fees.

If a consumer were to go to another, cheaper site to register the name, they would find the name is "unavailable." Consumers are never informed that inquiring as to a name's availability through Network Solutions results in the company holding a monopoly on selling that name.

I'm not too surprised to see someone suing NSI over this, but what's interesting is that they're suing ICANN. Based on ICANN's contract with NSI, it looks like ICANN can promulgate rules that would forbid NSI from doing this name locking trick (though it would require the creation of a "Consensus Policy"). But that doesn't necessarily mean that you can sue ICANN to require them to promulgate such a policy—or rather that you can prevail.

1 Comments

click on the above link to see an analysis of the issues.

I agree that Network Solutions’ business plan to “reserve” all available name search queries was questionable from an ethics and business point of view. I, for one, am surprised that Network Solutions and ICANN have been sued in a class action format.

I originally posted about potential consumer protection liability related to NSI’s reserve policy here, but NSI quickly modified it’s policy and provided adequate notice on its web site in order to inform consumers that it would be reserving searched domains. That post is found here

Consumer protection lawsuits are all about misrepresentation and “deception.”; Once Network Solutions posted notice on its web site that it would be engaging in this particular business practice, it is hard to imagine how consumers would argue they were “deceived.”

As far as ICANN liability, the only possibility is an argument that Network Solutions was violating the accreditation agreement with ICANN and ICANN failed to follow-up on that known violation. However, I have not seen any good analysis on the Internet which suggests that a violation of policy did occur.

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