UPDATE: Read the blog published on 30 June 2023 to learn about recent developments.
In March 2023, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers organization (ICANN org) began receiving complaints alleging that the registrar Epik Inc. (Epik) is not processing domain name renewals in a timely manner despite having collected payment. The complaints also alleged that Epik's customer support is not providing timely or substantive responses to customers inquiries. All complaints received by ICANN org have been, or are in the process of, being addressed. These include the complaints referenced in the formal breach notice ICANN org issued to this registrar on 1 June 2023.
This blog highlights resources that are available under ICANN agreements and policies for registrants experiencing issues with their domain name registrations with Epik. The blog also explains the actions ICANN org is taking to ensure this registrar complies with its contractual obligations.
Resources for Registrants: How and Where to File a Complaint
ICANN-accredited registrars provide Registrar Services in accordance with the requirements of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA), the Transfer Policy, the Expired Registration Recovery Policy (ERRP), and the Expired Domain Deletion Policy. Registrants who believe that their rights are not being observed by their registrar are encouraged to review the following information:
- Learn how to transfer a domain name here.
- If registrants have contacted the registrar and are unable to obtain the AuthInfo code(s) and/or unlock the domain name(s) for transfers, they may submit a complaint to ICANN Contractual Compliance through this form.
- Learn how to renew a domain name here.
- If registrants' domains have expired and they have contacted Epik to renew without success, they can submit a complaint to ICANN Contractual Compliance through this form.
- All forms to submit complaints to ICANN Contractual Compliance can be found here.
- ICANN org's resource hub for registrants is available here.
Before submitting a complaint to ICANN, please confirm that the complaint refers to a generic top-level domain (gTLD) name and not a country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) name. ICANN org does not accredit registrars or set policy for ccTLDs. For inquiries and issues involving ccTLDs, contact the relevant ccTLD manager using the contact details at https://www.iana.org/domains/root/db.
Ensure complaints to ICANN Contractual Compliance include:
- All affected domain names.
- Evidence that the complainant is the registrant, or acting on behalf of the registrant, for all affected domain names (e.g., screenshots of the control panel showing the domain name and the complainant's details).
- Any available evidence of having paid for the renewal/redemption of the affected domain names(s), failed renewal attempts and copies of communications with the registrar relating to the renewal, redemption and/or transfer requests. This information is requested in the complaint forms, please ensure it is included.
ICANN's Authority and Role
ICANN's authority to take actions against Epik is established in the RAA and the Consensus Policies incorporated into the RAA, including those setting forth obligations relating to the renewal and redemption of gTLD domain names. If customers of this registrar have concerns about services that Epik provides outside of the RAA (e.g., transactions related to the sale or purchase of domain names through Epik's auction site), they may consider seeking legal advice as to how they might obtain relief.
Enforcement of ICANN Agreements and Policies Related to Epik
In March 2023, ICANN Contractual Compliance began receiving complaints from registrants asserting that Epik was failing to renew domain names for which payment was made. As of today, 40 complaints of this nature have been received and 19 compliance investigations initiated. The complaints that did not result in a compliance investigation involved, for example, country-code top level domains (ccTLD). In almost 70 percent of the complaints received, the gTLD domain names were not yet expired. Therefore, Epik had not yet violated RAA or ERRP requirements by not renewing them.
The obligation in the ERRP is to permit the renewal once the domain name is expired and the redemption during the 30-day redemption period if a domain is deleted (refer to page 10 of ICANN Contractual Compliance's report to the Generic Names Supporting Organization related to the enforcement of renewal/redemption obligations.) For these cases, ICANN Contractual Compliance still sent inquiries to Epik to ensure that it assisted the registrants. Additionally, ICANN Contractual Compliance required Epik to provide the total number of gTLD domain names for which renewals had not been processed in a timely manner and the remedial measures taken to assist all affected registrants. Other cases advanced to escalated notices, which require a swift resolution by the registrar, because the domain names had already expired and were at risk of deletion.
As public discourse increased, a cross-functional team at ICANN org intensified its monitoring of Epik across a variety of obligations and indicators, to ensure ICANN was prepared to assist and protect registrants even before receiving complaints in March 2023. This included the monitoring of compliance with obligations that directly impact registrants' safeguards. These safeguards include data escrow obligations and other areas which may indicate a potential cessation of operations or delay in providing services, such as the operability of the registrar's website and its overall responsiveness.
As a result of ICANN's enforcement of the applicable agreements and policies, ICANN Contractual Compliance issued a formal breach notice to the registrar on 1 June 2023. In accordance with the terms of the RAA, the registrar must cure within 21 days or by 22 June 2023. Should the registrar fail to cure, ICANN will commence the RAA termination process and invoke the DeAccredited Registrar Transition Procedure (DART-P) to transition domain names from Epik to a registrar in good standing to protect registrants.
Change of Control or Ownership of an ICANN-Accredited Registrar
ICANN org is also aware of the recent sale of Epik. Any change of control or ownership of Epik and/or a request to assign the registrar's current RAA to another entity must comply with the terms and requirements of Section 7.3 of the RAA and ICANN's procedures, which include review and approval by ICANN. ICANN org has an established process and extensive experience conducting these types of reviews and performing heightened due diligence appropriate for these circumstances.
ICANN org will continue to monitor the situation closely and take actions to protect registrants' rights where the registrar fails to comply with its RAA obligations.