Blackberry domain name deal puts DNC onto Intergen

A Vodafone promotion with free domain name registration for twelve months draws DNC scrutiny

Vodafone’s recent promotion of its Blackberry mobile email and telephone device caused Steven Heath to sit up and take notice, as it offered a free domain name for those who signed up for it.

Heath is a former InternetNZ councillor and well versed in the domain name game. He noted that the registrar used by Vodafone, Intergen, was a “closed” one. Such registrars’ activities are restricted to registrants who are their clients and who mainly use non-registry services.

Closed registrars do not have to provide information that their open counterparts do, such as terms and conditions, a link to the Domain Name Commissioner’s website, and spell out the complaints process for registrants.

This would make it hard for Vodafone customers who took up the domain name deal to for instance keep their details up-to-date and receive the same sort of service an open registrar provides in general. Heath spotted that the contact number for Vodafone customers was a toll-free 0800 one, which cannot be dialled from mobile phones.

The Domain Name Commissioner, Debbie Monahan, says her office is aware of the Vodafone promotion. According to Monahan, the DNC compliance officer has contacted Intergen to resolve the issue.

Monahan says that Intergen requested to be categorised as a “closed” registrar when it first connected to the SRS, as at the time, it targeted its own direct clients and those of its strategic partners.

However, Monahan says the DNC views the current Vodafone promotion as being “not consistent with [Intergen] being a closed registrar.” She says that as Intergen is targeting potential registrants who are clients of another organisation, these are being directed to Intergen. “Intergen should be clearly seen as an authorised registrar so that registrants aren’t confused,” Monahan adds.

Monahan expects that due to the promotion, Intergen will cease being categorised as a closed registrar. At the same time the compliance checks that Monahan’s office conducted showed that Intergen’s processes are consistent with the .NZ policies and procedures.

Intergen managing director Tony Stewart says “we don’t really see that there is a problem” and points out that Intergen complies with all the requirements to be an open registrar, including publishing contact details and terms and conditions. Contradicting Monahan, Stewart says that when the SRS went live, Intergen was an open registrar.

Stewart says that the only reason Intergen changed status from an open to a closed registrar was that there is a link to its site from the DNC’s site. “The service was targeted at Vodafone customers, and for them to get the correct deal, they need to come from the Vodafone website.” According to Stewart, Intergen was advised to change to a closed registrar so that the link could be removed.

He says that “if the DNC wants us to be open, then that is fine by us” and adds that the DNC site has already changed Intergen’s status back to being an “open” registrar.

Vodafone was not aware of the issue when contacted by Computerworld for comment.

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