In this digital age your web domain is the bedrock of your business’s online identity. Not only does your domain tell customers how to find your business on the web, but it also communicates and reinforces your business to every visitor of your website.
Yet, despite the importance of the web domain, many Registrants often forget to check that their domain registration contact details are up to date. Similarly many Registrants can’t remember if their domain is registered to their company or to whoever set up their first website when they started their business a long time ago. Sometimes it is even the case that Registrants have registered a domain using an old email address which they no longer have access to as the contact address for their domain.
If you are a Registrant then at this point you are probably thinking that none of this sounds like that big of a deal, after all in most cases your website and email will carry on working regardless of whether your domain contact details are up to date.
However on December 1st, 2016, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is set to roll out a new transfer policy that will modify the process of changing domain ownership from one Registrar to another. The implementation of the policy will be imposed on all Registrars and this means that as from December 1st it will be a bit more difficult to update your domain contact details.
In this article we will discuss the current process for changing your domain contact details in contrast to the upcoming changes, highlighting where the new policy will have the biggest impact.
Updating Domain Contact Details: the Current Process
Your domain must be registered to a legal entity, which can be either be yourself as an individual, or to your organisation. You cannot purchase your domain outright, instead the “ownership” of a domain is effectively leased out over a period of time until you or your organisation no longer requires it. The longest period of time that a domain can be renewed for is 10 years and during this period of time either you or your organisation (dependant on whose details are listed for the domain) is the legal “owner” of it.
It is very important that an you or your organisation supply the most correct and up-to-date Registrant details as incorrect details means that there is no proof of ownership of the domain. Without proof of ownership there becomes potential for issues should a dispute arise over who has the right to use the domain or if you need to make a domain transfer.
It is often the case that individuals or organisations who have had ownership of a domain for a long time find that their domain contact details have become out of date due to the fact that the domain was originally registered with an employee’s email address who has since left the organisation. To prevent this we recommend that you use a generic email address (such as admin@”domain-name” or hello@”domain-name@) for which you can simply update the access information for, rather than having to update access for the whole domain.
Currently, ICANN require that all information in your domain registration is correct and will require to validate any changes that you make via email. If you do not follow ICANN’s process then your domain will be suspended after 15 days and your website and email will stop working until the details have been validated.
What are the upcoming changes?
Domain Transfer Policy Change Between Registrars
To help prevent the growing risk of domain frauds and hijacking activities, ICANN has introduced several changes in Inter-Registrar Transfer Policy (IRTP). In line with the new policy domain name Registrants will be required to take some additional steps in order to confirm a domain transfer between Registrars.
Likewise, when a domain Registrant undertakes any routine changes to domain contact information the following policy changes will come into play:
When a domain Registrant of gTLD(Generic top-level domains) makes any change in contact information (first name, last name, or email address), both the current Registrant and the new Registrant must confirm the change. This policy applies even if the new and the previous Registrant are actually the same person or entity.
Both Registrants will also receive notification regarding any pending changes, and they will have the ability to decline them. This is where you need to ensure that your contact details are up to date because if one Registrant fails to validate any pending changes they will not be authorised. If your domain is currently registered with an out-of-date email address that you no longer have access to, we recommend that you contact your Domain Registration Agent as soon as possible and they will resolve the issue on your behalf.
It is also important to note that you may not receive domain renewal notices if your contact information is out-of-date. If your Domain Registration Agent Is unable to make contact with you they may not be able to renew your domain. This may result in you losing your domain, leaving it free for someone else to register.
In cases where it is not possible to validate any domain updates due to out-of-date email addresses there will be provision to verify any changes via SMS message.
Once the changes have been confirmed, the domain name cannot be transferred to a new registrar for 60 days. ICANN allows current Registrants to opt-out from this 60-day transfer-lock period, but approval of changes from both parties is mandatory.
If a current or new Registrant declines the changes, or they fail to confirm the change within a certain time period (as decided by the Registrar), then the domain transfer/information changes will be cancelled.
In the case of SSL (Specifically Organisation Validated or Extended Validation Certificates and Wildcard Certificates): some SSLs require the Registrant information on the relevant domain to exactly match the information on the certificate request. This information will then be checked against a third party source and validated by a phone call or request for documentation. If you do not “own” or have the correct registrant information for your domain you may not be able to purchase the correct certificate to secure your website or email system.
How the policy changes will affect end users
Each time a user changes the first name, last name, or email address for gTLD, both new and the previous Registrant will receive an email to confirm the change. In case, when the change isn’t confirmed within a certain period of time, the name or an email address will stay the same.
While transferring the domain name, both losing and gaining Registrant will have to confirm the change. In case, the change isn’t confirmed within a certain period of time, domain transfer will be cancelled.
When user changes the first name, last name, or an email address for a gTLD domain, domain will be locked at the same registrar for the next 60 days.
Your Responsibility as a Registrant
As the domain Registrant, it is your responsibility to ensure that your domain registration details are kept up to date. If any of your contact details change you should either notify your ISP or, if you have control panel access to your domain, login and update it.
It is very easy to register your domain and to forget about it, so try to make sure that you make a note to check it from time to time. While your ISP may advise you if they notice that something is out of place as part of a domain portfolio package, generally speaking they will be managing so many domains at one time that they may not have the time or resources to frequently check them all.
Most problems with domain registrations can be fixed quickly and easily, for example, a suspended domain can be reinstated once you have corrected and validated your details. Similarly an expired domain can be renewed provided it is within the Registrar’s grace period. However, having your website and email offline even for a short time may be costly to your business. Your domain name is one of the most important assets in this digital age and you should treat it as such.