ICANN Ombudsman Blog

February 12, 2007

Registerfly and the ICANN Office of the Ombudsman

Filed under: Registerfly — Frank Fowlie @ 3:43 pm

In the past couple of weeks, over 70% of the non-jurisdictional contacts my Office has received have concerned  registerfly.

The role of the Ombudsman is to review the fairness of actions, decisions, or inactions taken or not taken by the ICANN Board or Staff.  In these cases, consumers have essentially asked me to look into a matter involving a dispute between them and registerfly, and this falls outside of the powers given to me under Bylaw V.  http://www.icann.org/ombudsman/documents/ombuds-frmwrk-eng-20jun05.pdf

In most circumstances, the matter would be reffered to Mr. Mike Zupke, ICANN’s Registrar Manager, and he would in turn pass along consumer concerns to the registerfly contact, who can be found by entering your domain name in the following search engine: http://reports.internic.net/cgi/whois?whois_nic=&type=registrar  If, however, Mr. Zupke determined that the matter you are complaining about is unrelated to the Registrar’s Accreditation Agreement, or any other ICANN policy, he will likely encourage you to work out the situation with the registrar.  The contact details above may be of use to you in contacting registerfly.


  1. On 30 November 2006 I alerted ICANN Chairman of the Board Vint Cerf to domain renewal issues that were arising in connection with registerfly operations and suggested that the ICANN Compliance Manager or Registrar
    Liaison look into this matter (see http://gnso.icann.org/mailing-lists/archives/ga/msg05232.html).

    As these problems appear to be persisting it may be argued that ICANN Staff inaction may be a contributory factor (and that certainly falls within the Ombudsman’s purview).

    It would proably be helpful if on your blog you could outline the general nature of the complaints received regarding this one registrar.

    Additionally, I recall that ICANN had previously pointed to the installation of a ticketing system that would assist in categorizing/organizing public complaints, yet I have yet to see a summary report covering the over 10,000 complaints received during 2006 that would assist those of us engaged in policy development matters. This too appears to be symptomatic of Staff inaction.

    We rely on both ICANN Staff and the Ombudsman’s Office to make sure that ICANN constituent bodies treat the public fairly. Yet when registrars remain in non-compliance with respect to their contractual registrant data escrow requirements we neither see ICANN Staff nor the Ombudsman doing anything about it to protect the stability of the DNS and the public interest therein.

    Can you assure us that inaction on the part of ICANN Compliance managers is not in part responsible for the amount of complaints regarding registerfly?

    Comment by Danny Younger — February 13, 2007 @ 7:14 am

  2. So, it’s basic pass the buck syndrome as usual for anything regarding ICANN. ICANN is supposed to represent these users, but in this matter as well as all others, they fail to do so. It doesn’t seem that creating the position you are in has changed anything.

    If you feel it has and that users and registrants are somehow better off with the creation of the position you hold, could you please enlighten us?

    Comment by Chris McElroy aka NameCritic — February 13, 2007 @ 2:18 pm

  3. It’s a shame that Mike Zupke has done nothing.

    Encourage us to work out the situation with Registerfly?… is this some sort of a joke? We’ve all been trying to work it out with Registerfly for the past 4 years but Registerfly doesn’t and will not respond to the support.

    So explain to us how anyone is supposed to work something out with one of your Registrars that doesn’t respond to emails, phone calls or support tickets.

    Is ICANN blind or just stupid? If we could get any support from Registerfly we wouldn’t be complaining and they wouldn’t have the reputation they have.

    Thank you Mr. Ombudsman. As it sits, ICANN and Mike Zupke have done nothing to improve on this situation. This is considered inaction on the part of an ICANN employee. Therefore it’s referred to the office of the Ombudsman. Maybe Mike Zupke shouldn’t hold a position that he obviously can’t handle.

    As far as what we’ve all seen here, ICANN is not only supportive of companies like Registerfly but also is continuing to encourage fraudulent and inappropriate domain name transactions on the internet. So a registrar can do just about anything illegal and ICANN just turns their back on the Public when ICANN is needed.

    ICANN… pull your head out of your ass and take a look at what’s going on here.

    Comment by Registerflies — February 15, 2007 @ 5:21 am

  4. If ICANN can not, or won’t, do anything about the hundreds of thousands of domains in jeopardy, as well as continue to keep registerfly accredited, then I’m unable to see a justification for the existence for the ICANN organization.

    If the bylaws of ICANN allow it to ignore the impending catastrophic implosion of a registrar, allowing said registrar to continue to use their accreditation to advertise their fraudulent business practices, then perhaps the bylaws need to be revised.

    If the board members of ICANN can not or will not revise these bylaws, or hide behind them so as to justify their innactivity, perhaps new board members are needed.

    If new board members cannot get done whats needed to be done, perhaps ICANN has outlived it’s usefulness as an organization.

    People and organizations are remembered by the company they keep, and everyone sees that ICANN keeps registerfly in its company, despite the obvious ramifications.

    Comment by Mark Linder — February 16, 2007 @ 5:33 am

  5. Respectfully, if your office is receiving a multitude of complaints regarding a single registrar — I don’t care whether the complaints were allegedly misdirected or not — wouldn’t it behoove ICANN to at least investigate the matter?

    Moreover, you have to be aware that these complaints are not isolated affairs or the work of one or two disgruntled souls, but rather, are part of a larger systemic issue. This morning, I did a Google search on Registerfly, and saw literally dozens of complaint entries — and I am no longer finding ANY website that has anything good to say about this registrar. Even the Better Business Bureau (“BBB”) in New Jersey, U.S., reports hundreds of complaints, most of which are left ignored by Registerfly. At least the BBB *attempts* to resolve issues with the offending company. It would not be unreasonable to expect anything less from an organization that purportedly provides the badge of accreditation to registrars.

    To be accredited, a registrar has to follow minimum standards of conduct and support, does it not? When, then, does ICANN seemingly ignore repeated reports of conduct falling below this minimum? And when even eNom.com, a former reseller of Registerfly domains, announced earlier this week a complete severance of ties with Registerfly, also over allegations of misconduct, shouldn’t that give ICANN pause? –SJR

    Comment by Sander J. Rabinowitz — February 16, 2007 @ 6:23 am

  6. Icann is supposed to keep the internet stable. It does this how? Icann has made over $500,000 in fees from Registerfly.com, and with that money, what did they do?
    Did you help customers? Did you make the internet stable? How so?
    The Icann is profiting off others losses, plain and simple. That is illegal.

    REF- Registerfly has over 2 million domains, and ICANN charges 25 cents a domain, plus other fees they collect from registers.
    Icann is a money making machine!

    Comment by Rod — February 17, 2007 @ 12:49 am

  7. Why does ICANN continue to give their accreditation to this rogue business? And why has there been no action taken to step in? Its not for lack of funds I am sure.

    I agree that perhaps the usefulness of this organization has run out.

    I have lost hard earned $$$ and domains.

    “ICANN accreditation” means nothing to me anymore.

    Comment by Joseph Chow — February 17, 2007 @ 1:59 am

  8. At first blush, it seems you might have a point about the limited jurisdiction of your office, as well as the limited scope of Mr. Zupke’s authority. At the same time, I would encourage you not to ignore the bigger picture.

    The registrar in question makes no response to support requests. It has shut down the ability for users to change nameserver settings or to unlock domains for transfer. I would note that ICANN’s own website says that ICANN’s “primary objective is to coordinate the Internet’s system of assigned names and numbers to promote stable operation.”

    How can maintaining the accrediation of a registrar which operates in this fashion be seen as anything but harmful to “stable operation” of the DNS? Again, please don’t ignore the bigger picture.

    Ultimately, this DOES concern your office. The fact that ICANN has NOT moved to protect registrants by restricting this registrar’s actions–actions which put “stable operation” at risk–means that you have a responsibility; that responsbility is, to use your own words, “to review the fairness of . . . inactions . . . by the ICANN Board or Staff.”

    Comment by C. Kinzer — February 17, 2007 @ 10:47 am

  9. ICANN certification is what gave me confidence in RegisterFly. They are now holding onto my domain, they won’t let me renew, won’t give me the auth codes to release it, won’t put my own info in the whois (it is ‘protected’ and ‘locked’ and can’t be unlocked), and though they assure me via the phone and email that problems will be resolved in ’24 hours’ they never are.

    ICANN, please do something, this situation is dire, and I know I’m not alone. So many of us have TRIED to work it out with RegisterFly, but ultimately, we can’t.

    Comment by Bob Torres — February 18, 2007 @ 12:45 pm

  10. Surely ICANN is joking when you say this is all merely a customer dispute and we should try to work direct with Registerfly? That is perhaps the most absurd thing I have ever heard said.

    Thousands of us have our domains permanantly locked with no way to unlock them, transfer them away, or even renew them. Registerfly ignores support tickets. The latest news is their website just had its Security Certificate cancelled. Registerfly also owes many of us money for taking funds and not renewing the domains names but keeping the money, myself included as a victim last year, even before they declined big time this year.

    I can’t believe the non-action and odd uncaring comments ICANN is making about this very serious issue effecting hundreds of thousands of domains. How can registerfly.com keep their ICANNN accreditation? Shows how worthless the accredited icon really is! Do something now ICANN before you lose the little credibility you have left (after the early registry renewal contract affair you pushed through, to the detriment of domain owners).

    Comment by D. Green — February 19, 2007 @ 1:09 am

  11. In court documents filed on February 12th, 2007 (http://registerflies.com/docman/doc_view-6.html) Registerfly has admitted that they failed to pay for and lost 75,000 domain names for their customers because they do not have the necessary funds within their organization. Is this not grounds to have their ICANN accreditation revoked due to violations of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement

    5.3.6 Registrar continues acting in a manner that ICANN has reasonably determined endangers the stability or operational integrity of the Internet after receiving three days notice of that determination.

    5.3.7 Registrar becomes bankrupt or insolvent.

    When will ICANN step up and take action?

    Comment by M.V. Percival — February 19, 2007 @ 6:34 am

  12. Registerfly.com is promoting their accreditation w/ ICANN. They are doing this to take the heat off their ENOM problems. It makes me wonder if ICANN is going to make a stand and either back Registerfly or disprove them.

    Non-comment speaks loudly and agrees with Registerfly.

    Comment by M. B. Spears — February 19, 2007 @ 8:37 am

  13. I agree with the sentiment of the other comment submitters. What good is ICANN then?

    RegisterFly lured me in with their deals and seemingly professional web site and online admin tools. After 1.5 years of using RegisterFly, I am completely frustrated. I gave them the benefit of the doubt early on being the easy going person that I am. However, after requiring “support” for just about every action (registrations, renewals, DNS/e-mail services) I undertake at RegisterFly, I am now at wit’s end. All the times I required support were due to problems they created (i.e. their payment gateway is hosed, they reset domain settings out-of-the-blue without notice, they kill features without notice, etc.).

    Their support went from usually dim-witted initial responses days later to non-existent. For the last two months, support tickets go unanswered (and get auto-deleted unless you update them every few days), support e-mails go unanswered, and phone calls (with 30-50 minutes on hold times) end with “they are no longer there” (despite being within support time hours), “mailbox is full”, “call back and ask for xxx department when they are open”, and the frequent “our client based systems are down so we cannot help you”. My favorite is the hang-up after waiting on the phone on a toll number for 30-50 minutes. Nice.

    ICANN needs to do something about this. I need to renew and/or transfer domains but since the last several money based transactions I have done with them end up needing support AND the fact that the last transaction I have with them for a few hundred dollars has still not taken place despite them taking my money from my bank account and not answering any support channels, I am basically BEING HELD HOSTAGE by RegisterFly. My domain names will be lost if someone does not investigate this. One support person who forwarded me onto another department that never responds says that some of my domains are in some state of lateness that I will need to pay $60 per domain to renew them BUT I renewed them in time on their system that broke down on their back-end somewhere. Even if I paid the $60 (which I should not have to), I know the transaction would end in failure.

    Another Registrar should be able to syphon disgruntled members from RegisterFly for a very small fee.

    All my domains are post-Enom RegisterFly so that does not help me. Finally, I am not some disgruntled crackpot that dwells on this. I am just a very dissatisfied customer that is tired of wasting time and money on services not provided but paid for.


    Comment by AandA — February 19, 2007 @ 1:43 pm

  14. As of today, February 19, 2007 I have lost 3 domains. All three renewal fees were to be paid via autorenew all 3 lost with no notification.
    My fourth domain was saved due to the help of enom however I paid registerfly twice for the renewal of this domain.
    Right now Registerflyes security certificate has expired! I can even login to my account to support a USELESS suport ticket to get the $xxx they owe me.

    Medina, now EX CEO of registerfly would routinely DELETE support tickets!

    The link below may enlighten you. In fact you would be remiss if you chose not to view the documents located at the url below.

    icann has failed in it’s duties to police registerfly and registrars in general. Hundreds of thousands of registrants became victims as icann sat idly by.


    Comment by John — February 19, 2007 @ 3:47 pm

  15. So tell me again, what is the purpose of ICANN?

    Comment by A Doyle — February 20, 2007 @ 2:37 am

  16. If ICANN can accredit entities as registrars, it seems ICANN should be able to revoke an accredidation it previously granted.

    The whole idea of accredidation is that an overviewing entity has found that an applicant complies with a set of qualifications, and aheres to a set of standards and practices.

    When licensed professionals and educational institutions fall out of compliance with standards and practices, they lose accredidation. Just a accredidation is a green flag, revoked accredidation is a red flag to the public.

    The main value of accredidation is to allow someone to determine if an individual or organization can be trusted. If ICANN accredidation amounts to no more than an irrevokable rubber stamp, it can (and has, in the case of Registerfly) become a license to defraud the public.

    I suggest that a procedure be adopted for ICANN to revoke accredidation of a regsistrar in such a way that an independent third party can temporarily assume custody of the domains of that registrar until the registrants have ample time to select a new registrar.

    Comment by Lawrence J. Sylvain — February 20, 2007 @ 7:05 am

  17. On the one hand we all must remember that ICANN is not an enforcement entity. On the other hand, since ICANN is an accrediting entity, that accredidation must be treated as something of great value that cannot be taken for granted.

    ICANN cannot simply and helplessly collect statistics on the behavior of those whom it has previously accredited. While that function may have some value, ICANN must be be able to revoke accedidation through an established set of procedures.

    The whole idea of accredidation is to determine that an overviewing entity has found that an applicant complies with a set of qualifications, and agrees to adhere to a set of standards and practices.

    When licensed professionals and educational institutions fall out of compliance with standards and practices, they lose accredidation. Just as accredidation is a green flag, revoked accredidation is a red flag to the public.

    The main value of accredidation is to allow someone to determine if an individual or organization can be trusted. If ICANN accredidation amounts to no more than an irrevokable rubber stamp, it can (and has, in the case of Registerfly) become a license to defraud the public.

    I suggest that one does not already exist that a procedure be adopted for ICANN to revoke accredidation of a regsistrar in such a way that an independent third party can temporarily assume custody of the domains of that registrar until the registrants have ample time to select a new registrar.

    Comment by lsylvain — February 20, 2007 @ 7:27 am

  18. As of Feb 20 2007, Registerfly’s HTTPS is showing a Certificate Error – No phone support, no email support, no ticket system support, Toll Free number discontinued – Obviously no simple way to have them provide the required EPP Key’s to transfer domains to another Registrar… I’d appreciate your soonest intervention.

    Comment by Axel T. Curth — February 20, 2007 @ 10:46 am

  19. I have been in this industry for a few years, and this is unacceptable by all standards! I spoke with Mr. Glenn Stansbury; a man whom is obligated to his customers. He told me that my refund would be completely processed (all funds returned to my PayPal account) within three business days. Now, I have submitted complaints to ICANN, all of which have been ignored, because it has been four months since I spoke with Mr. Stansbuty with no refund. This is unacceptable and I believe that ICANN’s inaction and the actions of RegisterFly will not end well, legally and morally speaking.

    I know now that I can not trust ICANN to enforce the rules that itself sets and PROMISES to uphold. ICANN either needs to be seriously reformed, or needs to reconsider its position very strongly. I, for one, will not sleep easy until RegisterFly either goes out of business, is sued, or loses its accreditation.

    Please, ICANN, reconsider your position. Millions of domain names, and tens of thousands of people’s trust are at stake. You can stop the madness.

    Comment by Jason Berlinsky — February 21, 2007 @ 5:28 pm

  20. Whilst I agree with most of the expressions here, I think D.Green in post #10 encapsulated how I feel best. Every one of those disputes reported by disgruntled customers points to breaches of Registerfly’s RAA. Their dispute might be with Registerfly, but it is because Registerfly are breaching their RAA. It is ludicrous for ICANN or ICANN’s Ombudsman to simply overlook this fact and do nothing.

    This is a salutory tale. ICANN were having problems with Registerfly even when they were eNom resellers. How the heck with their track recorded did they ever get accredited is beyond me. It’s taken over a year to reach where we are today. Registerfly were breaching their RAA almost from day one. ICANN just sat by and did nothing. They didn’t want see the warning signs and just hoped it would blow over. Instead it’s now got to the stage where Registerfly have virtually imploded. Many Registerfly customers have been burnt badly. AND ALL BECAUSE ICANN REFUSED TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THESE CUSTOMERS WERE COMPLAINING ABOUT REGISTERFLY BREACHING THEIR RAA.

    I for one have lost complete faith in ICANN as an institution. Their only presence for me is as a $0.25 tax on domain registrations, which, imho, should be abolished. ICANN should learn their lesson wisely. They should not just rebuff all customers complaints but ask themselves, “is this complaint due to the registrar breaching their RAA?”. They should intervene much earlier when a breach of RAA has occured. A year on the internet is eons. You would expect them to step in to rectify these breaches in weeks, not years. Of course they don’t do it because it’s in their best interests to continue receiving the $0.25 and other fees from these registrars.

    I would support a class action against ICANN for unjustly enriching themselves by their lack of action against Registerfly and allowing them to continue to trade under the umbrella of ICANN accreditation whilst knowing Registerfly were in breach of their RAA.

    Footnote: eNom don’t come out of this smelling like roses, either.

    Comment by Stu McDonald — February 22, 2007 @ 5:09 am

  21. Enom is selling the “expired” registerfly names at their own auction, or charging a huge price to get them back. If they were looking out for their customers they would hold them until the “owners” can be determined. The Domain Auctions should be stopped until this settles out. ICANN put a hold on all registerfly domains now!

    Comment by Mark Dixon — February 22, 2007 @ 2:15 pm

  22. I haven’t been able to renew 2 of my domain names because of that story and I might loose few more in the coming days.

    What will happen to my domain names? Am I gonna loose them or ICANN will protect me and give them back to ….. ME?

    I would appreciate a bit of help. There must be hundreds of people left in the cold.


    Olivier Ladeuix

    Comment by Olivier Ladeuix — February 23, 2007 @ 5:06 pm

  23. No one, including ICANN, disagrees that RegisterFly.com has violated its accredidation agreement and continues to do so. Even if it were possible to straighten the current mess out it will take months or, more likely, years, and that simply won’t allow the registrants to effectively manage and renew their domains. Things are getting worse by the hour. Interstate crime and wire fraud are being committed as I write this.

    Bottom line: This is not complicated. RegisterFly.com is unable to perform its duties and responsibilities required by its ICANN accredidation. The company is dysfunctional. Its entire staff was fired in December and never replaced by trained professionals. RegisterFly couldn’t comply with their accredidation agreement if they wanted to. It is time to seize all of RegisterFly’s domains and assign them to a caretaker registrar who can provide the necessary services to the registrants of those domains.

    Comment by Lawrence J. Sylvain — February 24, 2007 @ 7:40 am

  24. One final point. As current events show that things are getting worse and not better, if ICANN waits until March 9 the damages will be compounded.

    Comment by Lawrence J. Sylvain — February 24, 2007 @ 7:42 am

  25. Hello people, welcome to the jungle! register your name in europe and you’re protected. Many countries are starting to implement their own domain names because they see that ICANN is whack.
    Had too many problems with US registrars, so I turned to Europeans and my problems are gone: http://www.artshirtcafe.com

    Comment by retret — February 25, 2007 @ 1:58 am

  26. This doesn’t look good. After personally going through the troubles of the RegisterFly (RF) debacle. My company spent weeks attempting to recover several of our 178 domains; eventually we were able to pry our domain away. Our company is happy to have switched our domain to DownDoggy.com

    Specifically we had problems obtaining the authcode. We understand that RF has started releasing the authcodes recently.

    Good luck to anyone still stuck with RF. Get out while you still can.

    Comment by Joseph Smith — March 12, 2007 @ 2:25 pm

  27. I don’t work in the internet industry for a living; I just have a domain name for my private email and my own convenience. Sadly, my domain happens to be registered through registerfly.

    Hah. Convenience? The irony.

    A constructive suggestion: abolish the “AuthInfo” code system. If I am the owner of my domain, how does it make sense that I need the co-operation of a third party – quite likely one whose best interest is NOT to co-operate – when I want to transfer the registration of that domain?

    How could anybody come up with a system where a key element depends on positive action by someone who has, at best, no interest in taking that action, and usually, an incentive not to? As long as the registrar keeps the authinfo code, the registrant basically has no leverage.

    Oh, and BTW, as of March 21, the ICANN icon is still on display on registerfly.com.

    Comment by J Deck — March 21, 2007 @ 4:47 pm

  28. It is really a shame! If ICANN works by contract law, it can and it must modify his rules, allowing and obliging ICANN to give any registrant a way out from any registrar, who is responsible for massive breach of rules. Before opening a whole section for complaint onto one single registrant (if it is not a very special negative status…) it should be taken the necessary political decision, to allow every registrant to run away in a very easy way.
    It is not 10000 of single cases– it is a registrant that sistematically does not do what it is obliged. It must perhaps have its some days before termination – but people must be free at once and receive AUTH codes directly from ICANN. If ICANN earns some fee, now it must work to merit them _ this inactivity is perhaps only the preparation of a big bargain for the executive committee, selling the victims of registerfly to the most interesting bid the them personally, as corruptible persons?
    If they cannot rule the registration market, they should be fired – those not taking the decisions, we all need to be correctly registered.
    A goverment that is not able to govern must resign
    The only consolation is how many protests we may throw over their stupid heads.
    Shame, shame, shame. Over the board, and more shame for such an ashamed defence. Something like we are too stupid to act. Maybe true, but inacceptable. Really inacceptable.
    And shame even upon those who elected the board and do not request loud their retreat – perhaps not to loose chances on the big cake, i.e. the bulk transfer.
    Shame, shame, shame.
    Does any one know which political authorities may ask a reform of ICANN? It would very useful to circulate the addresses where we can in the whole world ask political authorities the heads of this board and a new, registrant-oriented policy. If they have a monopole, it is only because it was granted them – any grant may be internationally rediscussed.

    Comment by Fabio Mora — March 29, 2007 @ 10:11 am

  29. As one of thousand domain owners i wonder what for is the ICANN ombudsman?
    Is it just to vent anger of cheated domain owners to prevent them from legal action?

    By deception of Jonny Kim I ve registered at ENOM.COM to save my domain.
    I believed that the law of contract sales – purchase can be supervised by the ICANN. My domain is still my property until May 2008, as I paid for this, it has been confirmed by the ENOM.COM. In MAy i’ve paid also for transfer to GODADDY, before I’ve talked by Jonny Kim from Enom COm to register at ENOM, in order to get access to the code releasing my domain.

    It was a trap . A trap to hijack domain and demand ransom. Since May 2008, ENOM “legally” blocks my correspondence causing losses in hundreds of thousands dollars, and I have abosolutely no influence to recover my emials!
    The practice of stealing emails by ENOM.COm is illegal by itself.
    I’ve complained to ICANN OMBUDSMAN – and NO REACTION.

    ENOM says, they can keep my domain, hostage for as long, as they will consider it convenient to them, to extract ransom from me. Participation in such schem is sufficiently revolting to keep me away from complying with ENOM demands.

    Litigation process is long, time demanding, and expensive. This is on which relay Mr Paul Stahura with his legal advisers – tham most of deceived owners would prefer to pay them ransom of USD50, instead to go into lengthy process.

    I hope, one day ICANN together with their supporting swindlers, will pay me compensation and will not manage to hide behind bancruptcy law.

    Anyway – i do not see, that ICANN fulfills statutory role, and should be immediately dissolved.

    Comment by Stan Kulski — January 14, 2008 @ 9:49 pm

  30. I successfully regained my domains by sending an email to the Tucows Compliance officer. My domains were registered by Tucows on behalf of RegisterFly. Now I need to get the money back RegFly charged from my credit card…

    Comment by Kris — May 22, 2008 @ 12:30 am

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