I was about to Flickr this and leave it at that, but then I remembered oh yeah, I’ve got a web site.
This morning’s mail brought me a renewal notice from my domain registrar. The currently-dormant personal nameplate domain I’ve been sitting on is coming up for renewal at the end of the year, so they’re really staying on top of it by sending me the renewal notice during the summer.
Except, wait. Domain Registry of Canada? That doesn’t seem right. This domain was registered with a US-based company. I don’t have any business with Canadian registrars that I’m aware of.
I’ve been hearing about this tactic for years, and received one or two of these in the past, so it didn’t take long to conclude that, yes, this is a scam. Even though the notice is deceptively formatted to look like an invoice, the wording tells me exactly what’s going on (emphasis mine):
“When you switch today to the Domain Registry of Canada…”
“…and now is the time to transfer and renew your name…”
“Domain name holders are not obligated to renew their domain name with their current Registrar or with the Domain Registry of Canada. Review our prices and decide for yourself. You are under no obligation to pay the amounts stated below, unless you accept this offer.”
They’ve obviously spent time honing their text so this practice may not run afoul of the relevant consumer protection laws. The company has been at it for years in other countries with multiple legal proceedings in the past, so they’ve had the time to get it right. It may be that the notice I received is technically legal.
But I still think they’re scum, and this is a scam-like practice whether it’s legal or not. They’re obviously counting on people to focus on the invoice and ignore the text. (Web users skim, they don’t read, right?) With an official-sounding name like “Domain Registry of Canada” it’s easy to understand how their targets might not pause to consider that this company isn’t in fact the one they originally registered with (do you actually consider your domain registrar more than once a year?). If someone web-savvy like myself has to seriously think about what’s going on here, how many average small business owners or office administrators do they sucker annually?
There may be legal recourse here, but I’m willing to bet that if they’re still doing it after all these years, they’ve managed to figure out how to avoid prosecution. So there’s not much to be done aside from wasting 50 cents on a stamp for their return envelope to return them a personal F U. Ineffective and useless to be sure, but if I can kill at least a fraction of a second of their anticipation of taking in another sucker while they open the envelope, to me that’s good enough.