Questionable bidding sparks outcry.
Domain name auction site NameJet is caught up in a bit of a scandal around shill bidding involving sellers that use its platform.
As detailed over at NamePros, it started with a question about bidding by domain investors Andy and James Booth. It appeared with Andy Booth was bidding on his own domain; he responded by saying that he no longer owned the domains even though he was listed as the owner in Whois. But if you take the time to read through the thread, it goes beyond just these bidders. There’s some questionable stuff that makes it look like some people are engaged in shenanigans.
Shill and unnatural bidding is a serious allegation. Trust in platforms is key to continued usage.
GoDaddy went through this when a number of apparently fake bidders didn’t pay for auctions they won. People stopped participating because they questioned if competitors pushing up the bids were really going to pay. The company implemented bidder verification and trust was mostly restored.
In the case of NameJet, it’s not clear how widespread the problem is. It appears that some people might have been bidding on auctions in which they had some sort of stake, or there was “friend bidding” involved. The responses to the allegations haven’t held water with many commenters on the thread.
Again, it’s not 100% clear at this point. NameJet released an initial statement but is continuing to investigate.
I spoke with NameJet GM Jonathan Tenenbaum this afternoon, and he reiterated that they are continuing to look into all of the allegations. He said the company takes the allegations seriously and is taking the time to fully investigate them. It will take action (both with individual bidders and to improve the platform) based on what it finds.
To NameJet’s credit, it has some features that make it possible to track questionable bidding. If it weren’t for the site’s use of bidder handles, no one would have spotted this behavior. GoDaddy still refers to people merely as a bidder number that changes from auction to auction.
Regardless of which allegations are true, I was disappointed in Andy Booth’s initial response for people to “Find something better to complain about” and James Booth’s statement that people should “Find something better to moan about”. The integrity of auction bidding is extremely important. It’s definitely something to complain and moan about, and it’s fair to demand a full and detailed response to any allegations.