Probably not, but it’s not as straightforward as other pricing rules.
Last month, I answered the question, “Can registries reclassify your domain as premium before renewal?”
For new top level domain names, registrars cannot change your already-registered domain from standard renewal pricing to premium pricing.
Some readers asked a follow-up question: can a registry move your domain from one premium tier to another?
The answer here is a bit murkier. Let’s take a look again at Section 2.1.c. of the Registry Agreement with ICANN:
(c) In addition, Registry Operator must have uniform pricing for renewals of domain name registrations (“Renewal Pricing”). For the purposes of determining Renewal Pricing, the price for each domain registration renewal must be identical to the price of all other domain name registration renewals in place at the time of such renewal, and such price must take into account universal application of any refunds, rebates, discounts, product tying or other programs in place at the time of renewal. The foregoing requirements of this Section 2.10(c) shall not apply for (i) purposes of determining Renewal Pricing if the registrar has provided Registry Operator with documentation that demonstrates that the applicable registrant expressly agreed in its registration agreement with registrar to higher Renewal Pricing at the time of the initial registration of the domain name following clear and conspicuous disclosure of such Renewal Pricing to such registrant, and (ii) discounted Renewal Pricing pursuant to a Qualified Marketing Program (as defined below). The parties acknowledge that the purpose of this Section 2.10(c) is to prohibit abusive and/or discriminatory Renewal Pricing practices imposed by Registry Operator without the written consent of the applicable registrant at the time of the initial registration of the domain and this Section 2.10(c) will be interpreted broadly to prohibit such practices.
When you register a premium domain name, you “expressly agreed in [the] registration agreement” that you will have to pay more than standard renewal rates to renew a domain.
Take the hypothetical domain domain.example. Let’s say the standard renewal fee is $10, but your premium domain is in the registry’s Premium Tier A bucket, which renews for $200 a year.
In this case, the registrar will charge you the $200 per year plus markup. And the registry could decide to increase the pricing in Tier A from $200 to, say, $300, provided it gives a 6-month notice to the registrars about this change. This is the same with standard-fee registrations. (Assuming the registrar lets you know ahead of time, this would allow you to renew for 10 years at current prices.)
I think there’s an assumption that you’ve agreed to the higher renewal price in that tier. But registries usually have multiple tiers of pricing for premiums. Could they move your domain from a Tier A $200/year renewal to a Tier D $1,000/year renewal while keeping other registered domains in Tier A?
The registry agreement isn’t as clear about this. I reached out to ICANN for clarification. In an email, the organization stated:
The registry operator must maintain uniform pricing and universally apply refunds, rebates, discounts, product tying or other programs in place at the time of renewal. In the hypothetical scenario you presented (“[…] this name has been singled out to move to another of the premium pricing tiers while other names haven’t.”), one of the things that comes to mind is whether or not the RO’s approach would be consistent with the requirement regarding maintaining uniform pricing. a priori, it appears that the registry operator may not be maintaining uniform pricing (see Article 2.10 (c) of the Registry Agreement (RA) “[f]or the purposes of determining Renewal Pricing, each domain registration renewal must be identical to the price of all other domain name registration renewals in place at the time of such renewal […])” However, to determine whether the scenario you are presenting violates the RA, it would be necessary to review all details of the renewal against the RA requirements. These details include prices at the time of the renewal and whether the exceptions stated in Article 2.10 (c) apply to the case at hand – whether the registrant agreed to a higher renewal price at the time of registration and whether the differences in renewal price (between this domain name and the “other names”) resulted from a Qualified Marketing Program.
That’s not a definitive answer, but it seems like you’d have a good case to challenge a registry that moved your domain from one tier to another.
I’m not aware of any registry doing this, although some have certainly moved unregistered domains from one tier to another. And if a domain expires, its pricing for the next registrant can change.
John Poole says
Bottom line: NEVER register a new gTLD domain name unless you are willing to be a victim of the monopolistic extortionate pricing schemes set up by ICANN and its “contracted parties” (i.e., new gTLD registry operators and registrars) to exploit naive and unaware domain name registrants. ICANN is corrupt, captured, and incompetent. ICANN knowingly decided to NOT follow the legal advice it was given by the US Department of Justice Antitrust Division (see pp. 4-11 https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/baker-to-dengate-thrush-18dec08-en.pdf ). ICANN, its legal staff, the ICANN Board of Directors, and ICANN management, have all FAILED the global internet community, including registrants, and ICANN needs to be replaced, as was abundantly clear after the .ORG debacle, phase 1 and phase 2, which ultimately required an intervention by the California Attorney General acting in the “public interest” in accordance with California law!
During the first two years of the new extensions, I bought four three-letter domains from Godaddy each $250 was a good time for me to have sales, I waited to renew one more year with the surprise that Godaddy had increased each one by $4750, I never received an email of the increase notice, do not renew them when finding that it was a price manipulation
I have had a 3-letter .win domain for years with “normal” pricing, but suddenly, the domain was listed as a premium domain (my guess is: they made all 3-letter domains at least premium) and they wanted around 10 times as much for renewal, with all registrars.
Andrew Allemann says
You definitely need to bring this up to ICANN. Their terms prohibit this.
Can you recommend the best way to do this? I tried looking into how to file a complaint, but didn’t get anywhere…
This is so completely horrific. My domain renewal came up and it was $6500!!! I had invested in my brand and domain, the price was completely hijacked and via the renewal price…
What can be done about this?
Andrew Allemann says
What is the domain?
I first wrote to the main registry, and they politely replied back that they don’t handle lowly customers, but if the registrar would write on my behalf, they would deal with it. So I wrote to Namecheap, and after 4 back and forths they agreed to write to the email address I was given, and the final reply was:
“Our ‘standard GA’ renewal/transfer fee is actually $19.98, so we have not made any ‘price increase’ or ‘price changes’ on the domain, it is simply just that this domain is now no longer part of any promotion. Our current promotion does not include any premium transactions. We don’t plan to move any domains from our current premium list at this time.”
Mine wasn’t as outrageous as yours. The low fee for renewal on .win is $3.31/y and now I was charged in the realm of $25. I hadn’t invested in brand or anything, I just liked the (short: 3-letter) domain name. I am not renewing…
Andrew Allemann says
What you’re talking about here is different. The registry and registrar had a first year promotion price, and then it reverted to regular pricing upon renewal.
Bob Hawkes says
My reading of the ICANN document is exactly the same as yours, Andrew – registries cannot reclassify some domain names as premium without expiration.
I have over the past 5 years registered a large number of different extensions, and have not had issues of standard being moved to premium.
However, recently, some domain names which I registered about a year ago have been reclassified, despite no drop. These are several TLDs but all one registry. I am not going to give details yet. I have had extensive but unfruitful correspondence with them, and today have issued a complaint/request for clarification to ICANN compliance. I will post again here when I get a reply, since if reclassification is allowed. it makes investment very difficult.
Andrew Allemann says
Please keep me posted on this.