Registerfly, The Register, and the Office of the Ombudsman

20 February 2007
By Frank Fowlie

Last week The Register had a story which relates to my previous blog on registerfly: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/02/19/registerfly_angry_customers/ Here is my reply to the author of that story, Burke Hansen:

Dear Burke,

I am responding to your article “Registerfly on the fly, ICANN on the run”, dated Monday, February 19, 2007. In your article you quote a recent entry in my blog, and then assert that I have washed my hands of the matter.

I'd like to clarify a few points. First, with respect to the jurisdiction of my Office; the ICANN Ombudsman is established in the ICANN Bylaws. It empowers the Ombudsman to look into matters of fairness concerning decisions, actions, or inactions taken by the ICANN Board, its staff, or supporting organizations. Therefore,  the ICANN Ombudsman does not have any jurisdiction over the commercial relationships between registrants and registrars. To give an example that may be more understandable, you live in San Francisco; if the City of San Francisco had an Ombudsman, that Office would have jurisdiction the city government, its staff and services. The Ombudsman would not have jurisdiction over disputes between consumers and business owners, just because the business or the consumer is located in that fine city or because the city passes bylaws that may regulate those businesses. ICANN can no more empower its Ombudsman to investigate registrar – registrant disputes than the city Ombudsman can act to resolve disputes between a computer retailer and its customer.
To put it another way, General Motors can't help you if you received poor service at the local gas station.
Just as with the City Ombudsman, I have to respect the fact that there are agencies that have jurisdiction to deal with these issues.  The registerfly consumers may come from any of a multitude of city, state, or national jurisdictions, with different consumer protection laws and regulatory frameworks.

Secondly, with respect to the individual consumers who have contacted my Office, I can tell you that I have looked at each complaint individually, and have responded to each complainant personally. Our Registrar Liaison Manager, Mike Zupke has followed up on each complaint I have referred to him, and these have all been identified to senior management at registerfly.

My Office has done a trend analysis of the complaints regarding registerfly which have come to my attention, and these have been transmitted to our compliance manager, and the registrar for appropriate follow up.

I recognize that consumers are presently frustrated with registerfly. I have attempted to advise consumers and registerfly of my concerns by putting factual information about the role of my Office in this matter on the blog. I have also informed them of the limits of my jurisdiction so that we don't falsely raise expectations about what we can do.  I am sure that you will recognize that no one wants to be listed on the Ombudsman blog as being problematic, and perhaps putting this into the public forum will provide some moral suasion for registerfly to deal with these consumer concerns. United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis has said “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”

Best regards,

Frank Fowlie


Frank Fowlie