Commerce Commission interest in .bank.nz domain

Creation of a new second-level .bank.nz internet domain is entering the initial stages of authorisation.

Creation of a new second-level .bank.nz internet domain is entering the initial stages of authorisation.

Creation of new second-level domains in the .nz space has been under discussion since the Internet Society of New Zealand's November 1996 AGM.

Final authorisation for the banking domain rests with the society (ISOCNZ), but the whole New Zealand internet-using community and the banking community will be consulted.

If created, the domain is likely to be moderated by the Bankers' Association, which made the original application for it, in October last year.

This will put registration of names like anz.bank.nz or freds.bank.nz at the moderator's discretion, but will not, of course affect bank names in other second-level domains, such as mybank.co.nz or asbbank.co.nz.

Creation of the domain, the first new second-level domain considered by the society, has aroused interest from the Commerce Commission.

“We are establishing whether there may or may not be issues regarding anti-competitive behaviour under the Commerce Act with the way a bank.nz domain is controlled and who will have access to it,” says commission spokesman Vince Cholewa. He cannot discuss what issues there may be, “because we haven’t established that there are any”.

The commission has no power to approve or forbid the formation of a .bank.nz domain, Cholewa says. “We are an investigative, not a policymaking body.” But if the move were judged in breach of the Commerce Act, the commission has the option of issuing a warning, coming to an agreed settlement, or initiating court action.

The membership and council of the society, and a two-man subcommittee having ensured the application meets appropriate standards, the next step is a request for votes (RFV).

Everyone with a .nz email address will be entitled to vote. This broad constituency, rather than the membership of the society only, was chosen because of the responsibility the society holds to the entire internet community in New Zealand, says councillor Steven Heath, the prime mover of the exercise.

"The RFV is not binding and is only to weed out weak or unsupported applications," Heath says. "The application needs to get [at least] 200 votes and 70% support for it to continue in the process."

If the poll succeeds, the Bankers' Association will be required to pay a non-refundable application fee to advance the proposal. A multi-stage approval process then follows.

ISOCNZ will issue a request for submissions on its mailing lists and appropriate discussion groups and “other appropriate outlets”. Between 30 and 60 days will be allowed for submissions, which will be posted on the internet for public review.

At the first meeting of the ISOCNZ council following the close of submissions, the council will issue an interim decision, which will again be widely distributed “to the internet community, to the community associated with the proposed domain, and to the wider public”, say ISOCNZ guidelines on the process.

“Further submissions on the interim decision will be accepted for a period which will end 14 days before the following ISOCNZ council meeting. “

The council will make a final decision at that meeting, and this decision will be binding.

Voting on .bank.nz is likely to start this week and will be open for 14 days, with votes being taken by email and from a specially created website. US-based online voting company election.com will run the mechanical aspect of the poll.

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