A large number of people have been in touch recently to seek our advice, after receiving emails soliciting them to buy the .COM equivalent of their .IE domain name for 10 years. While they may not be entirely fraudulent, these emails are certainly dishonest and misleading, and could lead people to pay far more than the market value, for domain name registration services that they most likely don’t need.

The emails are dishonest because the sender claims that they are prompted by having received “a request” to register the .COM version of a .IE domain name currently held by the recipient. This is highly unlikely, to say the least.

The email goes on to claim that the sender is “under the obligation to contact you, in order to offer you the first right of registration”. This is simply untrue. No such obligation exists for domain registrars.

The email goes on to misleadingly suggest:

We are usually under the obligation to register the domain name and to protect it for a period of 10 years. The annual price for the .COM extension is €19.95 per year. This means a one-off payment of € 199.50. When the link has been completed, all the Internet traffic that goes to the .COM extension, will be automatically linked to your current extension and website. This process will take a maximum of 24 hours. This domain name will then have a worldwide reach. The third party will be rejected and can no longer use your domain name.

This is nonsense, and a transparent attempt to extort as much cash as possible from someone who may be unaware of the realities of domain name registration.

Yes, it is possible to register a domain name for multiple years at a time, and many reputable registrars such as ourselves offer such arrangements.

But domain registrars are not ‘the trademark police’ and they are not obliged to give you “first option” on a name in one top-level domain (TLD) simply because you own that name in another. To suggest otherwise is a dishonest attempt to make you think that they are somehow acting in your interest, when they are actually trying to deceive you.

The clearest indication that this is a scam, is the price. Shop around. Dot-COM domain names don’t cost €19.95 per year. At Blacknight we currently sell them for an introductory special offer of €4.99 for the first year, and you can renew them each year for €11.95. And you don’t have to register them for multiple years. You can do so if you wish, or you can configure your account settings so that they auto-renew each year.

Unfortunately domain name scams like this are common, and they prey on the unfamiliarity of the general public with the domain name industry.

If you have a .IE domain name, should you register the .COM equivalent? That’s up to you. It’s entirely possible and legal for two entities to use the same name in different top-level domains, without infringing on each other’s trademarks. On the other hand, if your brand trades internationally, you may wish to assert your international intellectual property rights. And there are dispute resolution policies adhered to by generic (as well as national) domain registries, for cases where it is asserted that an entity has acted in bad faith to usurp another’s IP rights.

If you want advice on intellectual property rights, consult a lawyer who specialises in that area. Don’t take the word of someone who mails you an unsolicited offer to lighten your wallet by €200.

If you want domain registration advice, take our word for it as a reputable ICANN-accredited domain name registrar:

  • There is no such thing as a “first option” for rights holders in domain name registration.
  • Domain name registration is highly competitive. Shop around. Compare prices. Don’t take the word of a stranger who tries to imply that they are doing you a favour.
  • One year? 10 years? If you are unsure how long you will require a domain name, choose one year (and set your account to renew automatically unless you change your mind).
  • Check the bona fides of any company you are dealing with. Ask your friends and business associates. For a registrar of generic domain names like .COM, are they accredited by ICANN? Are they rated on independent review sites?

Still unsure who to trust? There’s a method from the old days that still has validity. Pick up the phone and call. There’s no number listed? What does that tell you?