As noted in a previous blog, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been closely monitoring Epik Inc.'s compliance with its Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) obligations. Because Epik Inc. was not in compliance with certain of its RAA obligations, ICANN issued a formal breach notice to the registrar on 1 June 2023 with a deadline to cure by 22 June 2023. The purpose of this blog is to provide an update on recent ICANN contractual compliance activity and a reminder to registrants of the resources available if they have been adversely affected by Epik's conduct. It also provides an update on Epik Inc.'s request to assign its RAA to a third party and the process that ICANN will follow in reviewing the request.
In March 2023, ICANN began receiving complaints alleging that Epik was not processing domain name renewal requests in a timely manner despite having collected payment from its customers. The complaints also alleged that Epik's customer support was not providing timely or adequate responses to customers' inquiries. Prior to receiving the first complaint, a cross-functional team within ICANN had intensified its ongoing monitoring of Epik's practices across a variety of obligations and indicators. ICANN Contractual Compliance initiated cases against Epik for detected or potential violations of the RAA. All complaints received by ICANN have been, or are in the process of being, addressed.
As a result of ICANN's enforcement of the applicable agreement and policies, ICANN issued a formal notice of breach of Epik's RAA on 1 June 2023.
Epik Cured the Notice of Breach
The 1 June 2023 breach notice was issued as a result of the registrar's failure to pay ICANN accreditation fees. The notice also reminded Epik that it had not yet resolved multiple complaints related to its failure to timely process domain name renewals and other customer requests.
On 21 June 2023, Epik cured the notice of breach. The registrar paid all outstanding ICANN fees and, with respect to the unresolved complaints, Epik:
- Acknowledged and explained its failure to timely process various registrant requests, including to renew their generic top-level domain (gTLD) name registrations.
- Described the specific remedial measures it has taken to address these failures and to ensure that they would not reoccur in its provision of registrar services.
- Described the actions it has taken to assist registrants and confirmed that it has resolved all remaining issues with respect to the gTLD domain names impacted by its failures noted above.
- As confirmed by ICANN, renewed or allowed registrants to transfer all gTLD domain names that were the subject of complaints and for which evidence of payment had been received.
ICANN acknowledged the remedial measures and noted that should any of these issues reoccur, it will take expedited action to enforce Epik's contractual obligations.
ICANN's Continued Assistance and Monitoring
ICANN continues to monitor Epik's compliance with its RAA obligations and will provide assistance to the affected registrants that submit complaints to ICANN. Additional compliance investigations beyond those included in the 1 June 2023 breach notice are ongoing. If the registrar fails to timely demonstrate compliance with the RAA requirements relevant to each compliance case, ICANN will issue additional notices of breach. Epik is currently responding to all of the outstanding compliance cases.
The previous blog described how to access resources available to registrants, including how to renew a domain name or file a complaint. Registrants that are experiencing issues with gTLD domain names sponsored by Epik can submit complaints to ICANN following the instructions in that blog.
Epik's Change of Control Request
On 8 June 2023, Epik announced that "Epik LLC has acquired and transferred Epik.com and the associated domain management platform from Epik Holdings Inc." As noted in the prior blog, the change of control or transfer of ownership of an ICANN-accredited registrar must comply with the terms and requirements of the RAA and is subject to ICANN's review and approval. ICANN is now reviewing the request from Epik Inc. to ICANN to assign Epik Inc.'s RAA to a third party.
The assignment review process allows ICANN to perform diligence of the proposed assignment request to inform the decision of whether to approve the assignment. This is work that ICANN does regularly and the process can take several months, depending on complexity. Given the circumstances that preceded the requests for assignment, ICANN expects that conducting diligence for the transaction will be complex, and it make take several months.