Invalid Whois? GoDaddy Charges $9.95
Thursday, March 15th, 2007
Administrative fee “nothing new” according to GoDaddy.
GoDaddy, the world’s largest domain name registrar, charges a $9.95 administrative fee to contact customers after receiving a complaint of invalid whois information. According to Director of Domain Services Camille Ede, this is a long standing practice. The company often charges an administrative fee when it has to do more than send an automated e-mail to handle a non-typical issue.
A GoDaddy customer brought this fee to my attention when they received the following e-mail:
To: (email address)
Subject: Go Daddy Software Administrative Fee
Dear (name removed),
We recently received an inquiry related to your domain name, (domain).COM. The specific inquiry related to your domain
name can be described as follows:
Third party complaint received; domain has invalid Whois information.
In accordance with our registration agreement, (link to agreement removed)
we have charged your credit card in the amount of $$9.95 for our processing of this inquiry.
If you have any questions concerning the above, please contact our customer service center.
Thank you for your continued business,
When FamilyAlbum.com was taken away from the previous owner many people came to GoDaddy’s defense and said that the company can’t possibly afford to contact each of its customers that have invalid whois information. This fee certainly fixes that problem. It’s unclear whether GoDaddy attempted to contact the FamilyAlbum.com owner by means other than e-mail; GoDaddy’s message to the customer indicates that it only attempted e-mail.
To be fair, handling the issue of invalid whois data is time consuming. According to Ede, GoDaddy has a team of people addressing invalid data complaints. Unlike some registrars, GoDaddy actually follows up on complaints.
Some customers are outraged to see the fee charged to their credit card. In the case that prompted the e-mail above, the domain owner transferred her domain to GoDaddy many years ago. During the transfer process her phone number ended up showing 999-999-9999. This is obviously invalid information, but the owner of the domain was not aware of it. The owner received an e-mail about the invalid information from @secureserver.net, which she thought was some sort of scam because of the “from” e-mail address not being @godaddy.com. She later realized it was real when she saw the charge on her credit card and her domain name was suspended (and lost $1000s of business).
GoDaddy’s terms of service states that the company can charge an administrative fee for certain actions, but does not specifically list invalid whois data requests and does not list a price:
Go Daddy reserves the right to charge a reasonable service fee for administrative tasks outside the scope of its regular services. These include, but are not limited to, customer service issues that cannot be handled over email but require personal service, and disputes that require legal services.
Ede says GoDaddy suspends domains for invalid whois information before deleting them, but it is unclear how long it suspends the domains for. This may have occurred with FamilyAlbum.com but Archive.org doesn’t show any pages from the relevant time period. GoDaddy didn’t mention this policy to me when I talked to them previously about the FamilyAlbum.com issue, and the time period it suspended the domain for could not have been longer than a month or two.
Is the fee fair? That’s up to customers to decide. The owner of the domain in the above example is moving all of her 40 domains to another registrar, so it will cost GoDaddy more in the long run. A thread on DNForum suggests others are frustrated with the fee (none of these stories have been confirmed). One customer reported receiving the following e-mail:
Please consider this message as official notification that the contact information provided for your domain name registration for (domain).COM appears to be invalid, or incomplete. Please update the information within 5 days as per Section 3 of the Registration Agreement, which you agreed to at the time you registered your domain name. For your convenience, we have attached a copy of the current contact information listed for your domain name. If the update has not been accomplished within 5 days, this can be grounds for cancellation of your domain name registration as per Section 6 of the Registration Agreement. Please respond to this email to confirm the changes have been made. Thank you for your cooperation.
A few hours later this person received a message that they were being charged the administrative fee.
Another customer wrote the following:
I was charged with this fee once. Whois had Greece AND US as my country. The US part was entered by mistake by godaddy after a backorder.
If it turns out that your whois information is accurate, GoDaddy says it will refund the fee.