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Stiffening at last, ICANN threatens Registerfly with legal action

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ICANN has finally firmed up in its battle with troublesome domain registrar Registerfly and looks ready to battle the company in court.

In a letter from its powerhouse attorneys at Jones Day, ICANN accuses Registerfly of willfully refusing to comply with an accreditation audit as mandated in its Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA). Registerfly’s failure to fulfill the most fundamental obligations of its RAA appears to have forced ICANN”s hand – the harshly worded letter lambasts Registerfly for its failure to allow ICANN’s auditor to copy Registerfly’s registration data, and gives notice to Registerfly of ICANN’s intention to file suit against it in federal court on Tuesday, March 6.

ICANN’s announcement is its most forceful action yet against the reeling Registerfly. The company has been dogged by customer allegations of mismanagement and fraud for almost two years. ICANN, however, has until now pussy-footed around the issues raised by irate Registerfly customers.

Although the action falls short of the establishment of a formal, transparent dispute mechanism to resolve these sorts of issues before they spiral out of control, as advocated here, ICANN’s legal gambit provides a roadmap of sorts for future policy.

Registerfly is not the only questionable registrar out there, and some preventative medicine is clearly in order.

The RAA provides a registration grace period (RGP) for domains to resolve minor registration mistakes, but the RGP is worthless in the face of more serious allegations. Nonetheless, for a period of almost two years, ICANN insisted that registration complaints of all sorts needed to be resolved at the registrar – domain holder level.

The letter to Registerfly constitutes an admission of the feebleness of that approach, and establishes that when disputes cannot quickly be resolved at the local level, the buck stops at ICANN. The onus is now on ICANN to build good institutions out of Registerfly's chaos. ®

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