Domain Name Corp fined $2M for misleading emails
Competition & Consumer Protection June 15, 2018 11:08 am By Cat Fredenburgh | Melbourne

A company that registers domain names has been ordered to pay a nearly $2 million fine for sending over 300,000 unsolicited and misleading emails about its domain name services.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission brought the case in August, alleging Domain Name Corp and Domain Name Agency violated the Australian Consumer Law between November 2015 and at least April 2017 by sending emails that looked like domain name renewal notices but were actually notices to register a new domain name, at a cost ranging from $249 to $275.

The Federal Court on Thursday hit the Domain Name companies with a $1.95 million fine for violating the Australian Consumer Law, and restrained the companies from sending similar unsolicited emails for three years.

Company director Steven Bell was also enjoined from sending similar unsolicited email for a five-year period, banned from managing corporations for five years, and ordered to pay $8,000 towards the ACCC’s costs.

“The ACCC alleges that because these notices looked like they were renewal invoices, many businesses paid them thinking they were simply renewing the domain name for their business. The ACCC is alleging that the businesses were instead unwittingly signing up for a new domain name ending in either a .net.au or .com suffix that the business might not have needed or wanted,” ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said when the case was brought.

“It is alleged that the notices sent out by the Domain Companies offered domain names that looked very similar to the business’s current domain name. This detail and the fine print disclaimer were easily missed.”

“The ACCC believes that Australian businesses and organisations paid approximately $2.3 million to the Domain Companies as a result of receiving the notices,” Dr Schaper said.

The ACCC was represented by Norton Rose Fulbright. Domain Name Corp was represented by Dfg Legal.

The case is Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Domain Name Corp Pty Ltd.

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Cat Fredenburgh

Cat Fredenburgh has been covering legal news for 12 years. She was previously Editor-in-Chief at US legal news publication Law360. She is the Co-Founder of Lawyerly.