No more deals behind closed doors – EU tells NSI

Threat of swingeing fines hangs over domain name registrar

Network Solutions (NSI) may be forced to cough up ten per cent of its annual sales if found guilty of abusing its monopoly position as a domain name registrar. The US company is still under investigation by the EU and US authorities who are worried that some of the licensing deals between NSI and the five would-be registrars may be anti-competitive. The European Commissioner responsible for competition, Karel Van Miert, decided to open the enquiry after receiving informal complaints regarding NSI's alleged abuse of its dominant position. There were also complaints against the licensing agreements themselves and problems in the implementation of the agreements, according to an EU statement. A spokesperson for Commissioner Van Miert told The Register the EU was unable to disclose complainants' details. There is apparent concern that because some aspects of NSI's deals are not out in the open, the company could be raising prices, or even putting clauses into agreements to stop customers from dealing with future NSI rivals. Van Miert's representative said the EU had powers to ask NSI to refrain from unlawful behaviour, if found guilty. Should NSI not comply with its wishes, the EU has the power to fine the company 10 per cent of its global annual turnover. NSI made over $93 million in sales for the year ended 31 December 1998. The EU said the anti-trust enquiry was part of its overall monitoring to ensure the openness of the Internet. ®

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