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GoDaddy Makes Reporting Invalid Whois Easy

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It’s been a couple weeks since the story broke about the registration for FamilyAlbum.com being “deleted” by GoDaddy for an invalid whois e-mail address. Here’s what we know:

1. GoDaddy took the domain registration away from the previous domain owner after it alleged he did not respond to inquiries to the e-mail address of record in whois and his account. GoDaddy was responding to a user complaint.

2. GoDaddy says it acted consistent with ICANN policy by deleting the domain. According to someone close to ICANN, this is incorrect. Had GoDaddy simply deleted the domain it would have been consistent (but not required) by ICANN policy. But GoDaddy didn’t delete the domain. Instead, it gave it to another customer.

3. FamilyAlbum.com is valuable. FamilyPhotos.com just sold for $35,000. FamilyAlbum.com may not be worth as much, but it is certainly a good domain name.

Let’s take a closer look at GoDaddy’s message to the previous owner of the domain:

On 12/19/2006 we sent a notice to you at the admin/tech contact email address and the account email address informing you of invalid data in breach of the domain registration agreement and advising you to update the information or risk cancellation of the domain. The contact information was not updated within the specified period of time and we canceled the domain. The domain has subsequently been purchased by another party. You will need to contact them for any further inquiries regarding the domain.

Notice it doesn’t say that the e-mail bounced. In further conversations with the owner, it is not apparent that the e-mail address was invalid. GoDaddy hasn’t provided proof that the e-mail bounced. (Although it’s certainly possible it did bounce. There are a number of reasons an e-mail can bounce.)

Why is this relevant? I came across something this morning while doing a whois search at GoDaddy. At the bottom of the entry was a link to report inaccurate data. This link appears even if the domain is not registered at GoDaddy:

Godaddy-whois

When you click the link you are taken to a form to report the invalid data. At the bottom of the form is a message:

*The registrant is not required to respond to an email, phone, or postal mail inquiry. We need evidence that the email is invalid (such as a bounce), the phone is invalid (such as a disconnection), or the mail has been returned as undeliverable.

This implies that for the owner of FamilyAlbum.com, merely not responding to an inquiry is not grounds for deletion of the domain.

In other news related to this issue, I came across an article by someone who called GoDaddy support to inquire about the FamilyAlbum.com case:

The GoDaddy representative put me on hold after I described the situation to him and about 3 minutes later he returned after speaking with his supervisor. Apparently, the supervisor had been a trainer at the time this situation occurred 1 – 2 years ago. The article referred to above shows a letter which appears to be from GoDaddy Domain Services and puts the date 12/19/2006 on the incident. I do not know if these are the same or different situations, as I do not know the sources of the other article.

What Happened According To GoDaddy
The GoDaddy representative relayed the following to me:

The party who had the domain backordered had met the owner of the domain previously and had found out that the email was invalid and that the owner was going to be out of town for a couple of weeks. So, they placed a back order and sent a complaint that the email was invalid to GoDaddy. GoDaddy then sent an email AND called the phone number they had on file for the owner where they left him a voicemail. When he did not respond in 10 days, per ICANN rules and regulations they were required to delete the account.

When the account became available, the person who had placed the backorder received the domain.

Upon the original owner’s return from his trip, he received the voicemail and contacted GoDaddy who advised him to contact the other party to see if they would release the domain back, which the new owner did not agree to do. What followed was a dispute between GoDaddy, ICANN, the original owner and the guy who backordered the domain.

The case GoDaddy referred to must have been a different one, which indicates that this isn’t the first time this has happened. Or, it indicates that GoDaddy support made up the story. Afterall, it says that ICANN policy required the domain to be deleted. There is no policy requiring a registrar to delete a domain for invalid whois information.

Regardless of your views on this case, one thing everyone can agree on is that GoDaddy needs to train its support reps better. This isn’t the only time they’ve cited ICANN policies inaccurately. In the past they’ve cited ICANN policy for requiring them to not transfer out a domain that had its whois record edited in the past 60 days. This isn’t true.

I’ll keep you posted on the latest in this case as more details emerge.

In the meantime, have you verified your whois records are accurate lately?

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Comments

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  1. David says

    > In the mean time, have you verified your
    > whois records are accurate lately?

    GoDady has a ponderous online method for
    checking registrant details, not obscure,
    but time-consuming if you have a large
    number of domains.

    I estimated that it would take me DAYS
    full time to singly check each of 1000+
    names in my portfolio.

    I know of no mass-check method on GoDaddy
    or any file-download way to list my contact
    info for many domains at a time.

    I requested my account manager contact to
    provide me with a mass-check method
    (download etc.) over two weeks ago, and
    have heard nothing in the interim.

    Old contact data can easily lurk in
    medium to larger domain portfolios that
    have been built up over many years.

    GoDaddy’s 60-day lockdown for any changes
    to the contact data makes one reluctant to
    do mass updates, as portfolios are ‘stock’
    and domains must be available for transfer.

    Thanks GoDaddy, for making it SO EASY
    for some opportunist scum to steal my
    names due to minor oversights.

    Time to leave Godaddy.

  2. Kym Romanets says

    We had a customer whose website was “suspended” by GoDaddy.

    SITENAME.COM

    This domain name has been suspended due to invalid Whois information.

    If you are the registrant of this domain name please contact us at:
    invalidwhois@secureserver.net.

    When we approached GoDaddy all they (invalidwhois@godaddy.com) said was the domain information needed to be updated. They did not respond to requests to advise how this happened and what steps they had taken to verify the report before proceeding with the suspension.

    The details for the site were like many people’s entries – third party resellers.

    The site owner updated his information to be his own personal details and although it has been over 48 hours the site is still suspended.

    He has been out of business now for over a week.

    If you now Google the site, it does not exist.

    We suspect it was a dis-satisified customer who reported the site to GoDaddy. It is getting a bit much when an customer can have a business “closed” like this.

    A hammer to crack a nut much like the take down notices available under the DMCA.

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