The Add Grace Period (“AGP”) shall be restricted for any gTLD Operator (hereinafter referred to as “Operator”) that has implemented an AGP. Specifically, for each Operator:
- During any given month, an Operator shall not offer any refund to an ICANN-accredited registrar (hereinafter referred to as “Registrar”) for any domain names deleted during the AGP that exceed (i) 10% of that Registrar's net new registrations (calculated as the total number of net adds of one-year through ten-year registrations as defined in the monthly reporting requirement of Operator Agreements) in that month, or (ii) fifty (50) domain names, whichever is greater, unless an exemption has been granted by an Operator.
- A Registrar may seek an exemption from an Operator from the application of such restrictions in a specific month, upon the documented showing of extraordinary circumstances. For any Registrar requesting such an exemption, the Registrar must confirm in writing to the Operator how, at the time the names were deleted, these extraordinary circumstances were not known, reasonably could not have been known, and were outside the Registrar's control. Acceptance of any exemption will be at the sole and reasonable discretion of the Operator, however "extraordinary circumstances" which reoccur regularly for the same Registrar will not be deemed extraordinary.
- In addition to all other reporting requirements to ICANN, each Operator shall identify each Registrar that has sought an exemption, along with a brief descriptive identification of the type of extraordinary circumstance and the action, approval or denial that was taken by the Operator.
Add Grace Period (AGP) Limits Policy Implementation Notes
This synopsis is intended to provide information regarding the implementation of the AGP Limits Policy ("the Policy") and the effects on gTLD operators (hereinafter referred to as “Operators”) and ICANN-accredited registrars (hereinafter referred to as “Registrars”).
Add Grace Period (AGP)
A grace period refers to a specified number of calendar days following a gTLD registry operation in which the operation may be reversed and a credit may be issued to a Registrar. The Add Grace Period (AGP) is typically the five-day period following the initial registration of a domain name. AGP appears as a contractual term in some, but not all gTLD registry agreements.
Currently, when a domain name is registered through a Registrar, that Registrar may delete the domain name at any time during the first five calendar days of the registration (the Add Grace Period or AGP), and receive a full credit for the registration fee from the Operator. Once a domain name is deleted by the registry at this stage, it is immediately available for registration by any registrant through any Registrar.
AGP was intended to allow for the no-cost cancellation of domain name registrations resulting from typos and other errors by Registrars and registrants as well as some types of fraudulent registrations.
Effect on Operators
For an Operator providing an AGP in its Registry Agreement (some Operators have AGP defined in the functional and performance specifications appendix of their agreement) this new Policy will impact and limit the application of this functionality. Prior to implementing this new Policy, all Operators must give all active Registrars 30-days notice of the change in AGP refund limits. That notification should take place within 21 days of the official public announcement of the new Policy and Operators should subsequently implement the Policy as soon as possible but no later than 31 March 2009. Upon implementation of the Policy, Operators may no longer provide refunds to Registrars for AGP deletes that exceed the threshold limits set by the Policy unless an exemption has been granted by an Operator.
The Operator will be responsible for payment of registry-level fees to ICANN for any transactions that do not result in a refund of the registration fee. Operators should process and resolve all exemption requests on or before the last day of the month following the month the request was submitted, and only in rare cases should the exemption review and resolution time exceed 30 days.
The Policy defines net new registrations as the total number of net adds of one-year through ten-year registrations as defined in the monthly reporting requirement of Operator Agreements (i.e., a new registration for one year and a new registration for 10 years are each counted as one new registration).
Operators that are currently required to submit in their monthly reports the total number of AGP deletes (also referred to as domains-deleted-grace) per Registrar for the reporting period will continue to do so. Operators that offer an AGP but do not currently supply AGP deletes information in their monthly report will be required to add to the report:
- Number of AGP deletes (domains-deleted-grace) if this information is not currently defined in the Operator's monthly reporting requirement
The implementation of the Policy, and its provision for Registrars to seek an exemption from an Operator in a given month from the AGP limits restriction, creates a new reporting requirement for Operators. Operators must maintain copies of all exemption request documentation for at least one year, and provide it to ICANN Staff for review upon request. Operators must also provide exemption request information as part of their monthly report to ICANN. The information may be submitted as additional columns in the comma or pipe separated-value formatted report or in the Word formatted overview document. ICANN may, after some experience with implementing the new Policy, transition to a standardized format for data submission. The exemption request report must include the following information for each Registrar:
- Number of exemption requests
- Number of exemptions granted
- Number of names affected by granted exemption request
Registrars may seek an exemption from an Operator in a given month upon a documented showing of extraordinary circumstances. The Policy states that acceptance of any exemption will be at the sole and reasonable discretion of the Operator. It is the Operator's responsibility to define extraordinary circumstances, noting however, that extraordinary circumstances which reoccur regularly will not be deemed extraordinary. Several comments in the public forum sought additional specificity regarding the terms “extraordinary circumstance” and “reoccur regularly.” Absent community consensus in the public forum and previously during the GNSO Council deliberations on this matter, Staff has been reluctant to impose a more specific definition for either term. There is also Staff concern that more specificity could create safe harbors for parties who may be inclined to attempt to game the new Policy process. It is believed that initially retaining a more flexible approach to the exemption process for Operators is more likely to deter abusive practices. Moreover, the new Policy provides for future adjustments if it is determined that certain abusive behavior necessitates more defined terminology.
Exemption request documentation maintained by the Operator must contain at least the following information:
- Registrar Name and IANA ID number
- Date of request
- Extraordinary circumstance/reason for request
- Number of domain names affected
- List of names affected
- Ultimate disposition of the exemption request and the rationale for that action
ICANN may request copies of exemption request documentation for analysis and reporting requirements to the GNSO on AGP delete activities subject to the same confidentiality restrictions applied to registry reports to ICANN (i.e., Registry and Registrar specific information cannot be provided to the public or GNSO community until three months after the applicable reporting period). Upon request, Operators must supply the exemption request documentation to ICANN within 10 business days.
Exemption request information that is submitted with the Operator's monthly report will be treated with the same level of confidentiality as is currently exercised with monthly reports. The three-month time frame for posting Operator reports to ICANN's website will continue.
Effect on Registrars
Following notice of the effective date of the Policy, all Registrars processing AGP deletes during the normal course of business will be subject to the Policy and will no longer receive refunds for AGP deletes that exceed the threshold limits set by the Policy, unless an exemption has been requested by the Registrar and granted by the Operator. Registrars are obligated to provide information required by Operators in order to have exemption requests considered.
Upon implementation of the Policy, Registrars will no longer be entitled to a refund of the registration fee by Operators for new registrations of domain names deleted during the AGP that exceed the 10% or 50 threshold maximum number of AGP deletes per top-level domain in a given month, unless an exemption has been granted by an Operator. For example, if a Registrar had in a month 1,000 net new registrations in a TLD, had its account with the Operator auto-debited for US$6,000 (based on a price of US$6 per domain name registration), and had 250 AGP deletes, the Registrar would be entitled to a refund of US$600 for 100 AGP deletes (10% of 1,000 net new registrations at US$6 per domain name registration). The Registrar would not be entitled to an additional refund of US$900 for the 150 “excess” deletes made during that month. Prior to this Policy, the Registrar would have received a full refund for all the names deleted during the AGP.
For the purposes of clarity, the number of AGP deletes for which a Registrar is entitled to a refund of the registration fee paid is calculated on a per-TLD basis per month. That is, every Registrar is entitled to the threshold number of AGP deletes in a given month for each TLD where it has names under management. Furthermore, AGP deletes are calculated on a per unit basis of the total number of net new registrations for the month regardless of the term or number of terms for each net new registration (i.e., a new registration for one year and a new registration for 10 years are each counted as one new registration).
The Policy provides that a Registrar may seek an exemption from an Operator for the registration fees for excess deletes made during the AGP. The Registrar must supply, on or before the last day of the month following the deletion of the domain name(s), at least the following information to the Operator:
- Registrar Name
- IANA ID number
- Date of request
- Date names were deleted
- Number of names deleted
- List of names affected
- Extraordinary circumstance/reason for request
- A statement that the information in the Exemption Request is true to best of the Registrar's knowledge.
An Operator may choose to require additional information to process exemption requests.
Each Registrar's exemption request must describe, with supporting documentation, the specific extraordinary circumstances upon which the request is based and explain how, at the time the names were deleted, any particular extraordinary circumstance was not known, reasonably could not be known, and was outside of the Registrar's control. For example, an unforeseen defect in software development might not necessarily be considered to be in the Registrar's control.
Submission of an exemption request should create no presumption of approval of the request. Grant of any exemption request is at the Operator's sole and reasonable discretion.
Effect on ICANN Staff
ICANN will collect and analyze Operator monthly reports to track information on numbers of net new registrations and AGP deletes as well as Registrar exemption requests. ICANN will summarize this information and report it to the GNSO at six-month intervals for two years following implementation of the Policy subject to the same confidentiality restrictions applied to registry reports to ICANN (i.e., Registry and Registrar specific information cannot be provided to the public or the GNSO community until three months after the latest applicable reporting period). Status reports will provide statistics on registration and AGP deletes information from monthly Operator reports that are publicly available on ICANN's website. Operator monthly reports, for contractual reasons, are kept confidential for three months after the end of the month to which the report relates. ICANN may, at the request of the ICANN Board of Directors, provide reports with greater frequency if information is available, subject to the same confidentiality restrictions applied to registry reports to ICANN as described above. The reports to the GNSO will be posted for public information on the ICANN.org and GNSO web sites. In each semi-annual report to the GNSO, Staff will provide the following information:
- Operator names and the effective date of their implementation of the Policy.
- The number of net new registrations and AGP deletes, on an aggregate basis for all Registrars combined, for each month from each Operator.
- For Operators that have implemented the Policy, a review of all exemption requests submitted during the reporting period and the Operator response (approval or denial) to each request and the rationale for that action.
- The names of Registrars that have reoccurring requests for special exemptions and the reasons for those exemptions.
- Statistical information about the effects of the Policy on AGP deletes. The statistics will provide detailed information about numbers of AGP deletes per month by Operator. The statistics will compare AGP deletes information for the current and prior six-month period. Information presented will be subject to the same confidentiality restrictions applied to registry reports to ICANN (i.e., Registry and Registrar specific information cannot be provided to the public or the GNSO community until three months after the latest applicable reporting period).
- A Staff summary and analysis of observations of unexpected behaviors by Operators and/or Registrars that are perceived to be a result of the implementation of the new Policy.
- A recommendation by Staff as to whether the GNSO should consider particular modifications to the Policy based upon actions or behaviors observed during the reporting period.
The first semi-annual report is expected to be generated and released on or before 30 June 2009.
In addition to the semi-annual reports to the GNSO Council, ICANN Staff will be available to offer implementation updates to the GNSO Council at any of its regular meetings and calls during the period. Each update will include identifying Operators that have implemented or provided notice to implement the Policy as well as a summary of the effects of the Policy on AGP deletes for the prior month's reporting period.
ICANN's Contractual Compliance Department will monitor and annually audit Operators to ensure they have implemented and are adhering to the Policy in accordance with their Registry or Sponsor Agreement and that their monthly reports contain the required information about exemption requests. If ICANN should learn of allegations of unequal treatment of Registrars by Operators (e.g., identical requests made in the same month, but with different results), the matter will be investigated. Further, if ICANN has reason to believe an Operator is abusing the intent of the Policy (e.g., granting exemption requests that occur regularly), the matter will be thoroughly investigated and, if required, appropriate action will be taken.
Measuring Success of the Policy
The intent of the Policy is to limit the behavior known as domain tasting through modifications to the AGP process.
At the conclusion of the two-year required reporting period, ICANN will submit to the GNSO a summary report of the results to date of the implementation of the Policy. The summary report will be similar to the semi-annual reports, but will cover the entire 24-month reporting period and will address the results and experiences gained during the implementation and monitoring stages and provide the GNSO with its evaluation of the overall effectiveness of the Policy.