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German web host slams ex-partner NSI in domain dispute

URLs held 'hostage' after registration deal ends

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German web host Strato is battling with its former partner, US-based domain name registrar Network Solutions (NSI), over 240,000 web site addresses.

Strato formerly had a resale agreement with NSI, and registered all its .com, .net and .org domains through the US registrar. In January, the agreement ended, and Strato decided to relocate all its US domains to its own subsidiary, Cronon.

However, NSI wouldn't let those domains go. Instead, it approached all German domain owners with a letter - written in English - asking them to renew their registration with fresh contracts at a price of $35 or more.

Strato damned these contracts as "price-inflated and superfluous... NSI is trying to prevent the legitimate relocation of the domains with ever-changing technical hurdles," the company alleged in a statement.

Strato has asked the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to intervene. And the German Federal Department of Trade and Industry has been contacted to represent the German clients at the FTC. "NSI is employing dubious means to take the clients of Strato as 'Domain Hostages' in order to extort expensive and unnecessary contractual agreements, the registrar claims.

"We will fight against this with all legal, operational and technical means," it threatened.

Those strong words haven't impressed NSI so far. If Strato customers wish to relocate, NSI demands a fax from them written in English.

German news magazine Der Spiegel reports how a German woman received a letter from NSI. Because she doesn't understand a word of English, she ignore the note, and is now apparently without a domain name and web site.

How many Strato customers have lost their domain as a result of this isn't known. Strato now says it will compensate customers for any fees the have to pay to NSI in order to stay online. ®

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