en

Registrar Accreditation Agreement Process To be Reformed – Registrants Input Needed.

21 March 2007

Paul Levins

ICANN’s President and CEO, Dr Paul Twomey has called for major review of ICANN’s Registrar Accreditation Agreements (RAA) and the Accreditation process. He made the following statement and posed some questions.

“What has happened to registrants with RegisterFly.com has made it clear there must be comprehensive review of the registrar accreditation process and the content of the RAA” he said. “This is going to be a key debate at our Lisbon meeting scheduled for 26 – 30 March 2007. There must be clear decisions made on changes. As a community we cannot put this off.”

“ICANN introduced competition to the domain name market in 1998. Back then there was one registrar. There are now over 865. That’s a good thing because it has made domain names cheaper and offered more choice. But the RAA was designed and signed when the domain name market was much smaller. The market now supports about 70 million generic TLD names and is growing.” Twomey said.

“Registrants suffer most from weaknesses in the RAA and I want to make sure that ICANN’s accreditation process and our agreement gives us the ability to respond more strongly and flexibly in the future” he said.

Proxy registrations

“What is presently happening with RegisterFly makes it clear that there are also some problems with proxy registrations. Specifically, proxy registrations are available as a choice, but people who have them have great difficulties getting access to their data and having their domain name transferred where a registrar is uncooperative or has other problems with transfer. ICANN has had difficulty accessing this data too,” Twomey said.

“We need to expedite data escrow. There has been a long and detailed discussion and much interaction between ICANN staff and registrars on this issue. But we need to reach a conclusion. Recent events and the Lisbon meeting present that opportunity. There are resource implications and useage rules that need to be discussed among the ICANN community. I look forward to the continuing efforts and collaboration of registrars with ICANN in that regard ” he said.

“Registrants clearly want ICANN to have more capacity to access data on their behalf if there are significant problems with their registrar. There is a need for better enforcement mechanisms and an ability for ICANN to intervene more quickly if a registrar fails or is engaged in damaging business practice” he added.

“There’s also no way that registrants can measure the performance of registrars in any independent comparative way. That should be encouraged,” Twomey said.

“The vast majority of ICANN’s accredited registrars offer high levels of service and integrity. But as we have seen, there is the risk that poorly performing registrars can hurt registrants very significantly. If the domain name industry wants to remain community self –regulating as it has been until now we need to put in place further sensible and practical measures to protect registrants” he noted.

Discussion

Twomey said he would like to see the following issues included in any discussion:

  • Purpose of Register Accreditation Policy and Agreement
    • What is the primary purpose of the Registration Accreditation Agreement? Is it a compliance tool? If so how can it be strengthened to protect registrants?
  • Rating of Registrars
    • How should ICANN and/or the registrar constituency encourage a system that rates registrars according to customer service and performance and should this be available to registrants?
  • Affiliated Registrars / Group ownership
    • Affiliated registrars have common ownership or control. What is the best mechanism for ICANN to hold affiliated registrars accountable for an affiliate’s actions?
  • Additional compliance enforcement tools
    • Stronger compliance tools need to be included in any reform to the RAA. What are those tools? Do they encompass liquidated damages? Should registrars be able to be suspended more readily? Are there other options? What are the mechanisms that allow such options to be enforced quickly?
  • Transfer policy
    • What elements of the transfer policy need to be reformed? Should registrants have an alternative to their current registrar for the issuing of authcodes and the unlocking of them? Should ICANN or another entity be able to do this?
  • Registrar operator skill testing
    • How is it possible to assess registrar skills and to train registrars to a common standard of performance upon which registrants can rely?
  • Accreditation by purchase
    • It is possible for companies to ‘avoid’ accreditation application process by buying a registrar. How can abuse of this loophole be stopped?
  • Proxy registrations
    • There needs to be an examination of proxy registrations in light of difficulties faced in registrar data recovery. What is the balance between privacy and disclosure?
  • Reseller liability under RAA
    • What tools are needed to ensure better accountability by resellers to registrants?
  • Registrar data escrow
    • What data needs to be escrowed? If implementation needs to move faster, greater resource allocation is required. What level of resourcing is necessary?
  • Clarification of ICANN’s responsibilities and the options available to registrants
    • ICANN recently posted a guide for registrants on its website but additional consumer options (outside ICANN) should be identified for and provided to registrants. Is there a need for a new entity to assist customers and intervene on behalf of their concerns?

All ICANN stakeholders need to be involved in this debate. But in particular, registrars and registrants actively engaged in the discussion.

Many registrars will be present at Lisbon. But obviously many registrants affected by RegisterFLy will not be. We have established a remote participation site which means that you can participate there and can watch proceedings if you have access to broadband. Questions can be asked as well. While that is one way to provide input, it could also easily be overwhelmed.

So I would like to invite you to provide comments here. We will also look at establishing a comment forum and advise separately.

We really encourage you to provide us with constructive views.
Please don’t use this opportunity to make abusive comments.

As I have said before, we do completely appreciate how frustrating and difficult the RegisterFly situation has been and continues to be for very many people. But if we can get sensible, considered responses and input from registrants about your wants and needs, we stand a chance of improving things in the future.

Paul Levins