The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched Federal Court action Domain Name Corp Pty Ltd and Domain Name Agency Pty Ltd, with the ACCC alleging that the businesses “engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations to Australian businesses about the domain name services they offered”.
The companies have the same sole director, the consumer watchdog organisation said. Domain Name Agency also trades as Domain Name Register, the ACCC said.
The ACCC claims that the companies have sent out unsolicited notices to businesses that appear to be renewal notices for existing domains but are actually notices for the registration of new domains.
Some 300,000 of the notices were sent out between November 2015 and April 2017, the ACCC claims.
“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,” ACCC deputy chair Dr Michael Schaper said in a statement.
“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 domain businesses reaped about $2.3 million in registration fees from the notices, the ACCC believes.
The ACCC categorises unsolicited domain renewal notices as a form of false billing scams. The ACCC last year received 14,634 reports of false billing scams, with total losses of $659,835. In 13 cases, losses were greater than $10,000.
Domain Name Corp has been approached for comment.