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Registering a domain name is the online equivalent of leasing space for your shop and is often one of the first steps taken in setting up an online business. Before registering a domain, consider the following ways people have been caught out by domain registration previously.

1. Transfer Out Fees

Transfer out fees are like, in short, fees for breaking up. If you transfer your domain name registration to another registrar, the registrar’s terms of service may allow the registrar to charge your credit card automatically. In some cases, a transfer out fee can be between two and three times the cost of your original registration.

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the body which governs and creates rules for domain registrants and registrars around the world permits charging transfer fees. While ICANN policy permits charging fees, make sure you understand how much you will be charged to ensure there are no nasty surprises on transfer, especially if a terms of service permits an automatic credit card charge. Will you be comfortable with this?

2. Pay As You Go

Unscrupulous registrars may also implement a pay as you go system. For example, you pay to have your domain registered for five years. Some registrars only pay the first year of registration, renewing each year until the five year period is up. If you transfer out before the five years expire, registrars pocket the difference as their terms usually stipulate a strict no refunds policy. Ask whether your registrar will actually register your domain for five years, rather than renewing yearly.

3. WHOIS Database Services

Australia’s WHOIS database allows users to search for and find information about domain names. A WHOIS search gives you basic information such as: 

  • The registrant of the domain name; 
  • Their contact name; and 
  • Email address and computers for the domain name. 

A search does not provide creation and expiry dates for the domain name or the registrant’s phone or postal address.

One of the functions a registrar should provide you with is the ability to make changes to the WHOIS record. Some registrars charging rock-bottom registration fees may charge additional administration fees when you would like to edit your record.

4. Registrar Lock

Many registrars provide registrar lock services, a service created after a spate of problems with unauthorised domain name transfers. Having a registrar lock service is beneficial, but not when your registrar does not allow you to turn this function off! Make sure your registrar’s terms of service do not lock you in.

Key Takeaways

Registering a domain name is one of the first steps to take when developing your online business. Registering a domain name is the online equivalent of having a physical space for your retail shop and as with a lease, registering a domain name can come with some pitfalls.

Look out for transfer fees, fees for altering your WHOIS database record, hidden pay as you go arrangements and registrar lock (but no unlock) function.

Questions about registering your domain name? Ask our business lawyers.

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