The Internet Naming Group has landed itself in hot water with the Commerce Commission.
The commission has received 35 complaints about the Melbourne-based domain name reseller in the past two weeks, while across the Tasman Australia's Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is taking ING to court.
The New Zealand Commerce Commission has issued a warning to the public against having any business dealings with the company.
"The commission has strong concerns about the activities of ING and representations it makes regarding the nature of the services it offers," says the commission's director of fair trading, Deborah Battell. "Our advice is not to deal with this company."
ING first came to light in August last year after it sent a letter to 35,000 domain name holders in New Zealand promoting a "pre-registration" service for the new .biz and .info domain names at $250 per domain name. ING managing director Mark Spektor at the time threatened to sue online commentator Bruce Simpson over comments he made on his website, though Simpson says he has received no notification of any such suit.
Domainz, the company which runs New Zealand's domain name register, suspended ING for breaching its terms and conditions, but ING resurfaced late last month operating under the name Internet Name Protection.
Domainz chief executive Derek Locke told IDGNet that because it was suspended as an New Zealand registrar it must be taking any monies it received, registering the client's name with a cheaper, legitimate registrar and pocketing the difference.
One New Zealand domain name registration service provider, Pdom, has stated it believes ING has been using its service as the third party to register clients.
Locke said he believed what ING was doing wasn't technically illegal, but Battell says the commission is concerned that ING is representing that it is authorised to register domain names.
The commission advises ING customers to check any invoices they receive from the company and suggests they consider getting "independent legal advice". The commission is "providing Australia with information and we're keen to find out if anyone has paid money to register with ING".
Battell urges New Zealand organisations receiving communications from ING or Internet Name Protection to "hold fire from dealing with the company until things are sorted out in Australia. The ACCC has filed legal proceedings against ING for alleged misleading and deceptive conduct and pro forma invoicing in relation to the marketing of domain name services."
Among the ACCC's allegations are that ING claimed to have the authority to register or renew a customer's domain name, that it can register domain names for longer than the two years Australian convention allows and that its pitch to new prospects implied a pre-existing relationship.
Battell says "there are definite similarities between representations made in Australia and New Zealand which we are investigating further".