DNCL has been preparing for a period of change throughout the year. The year saw a restructure that aligned all of the functions under a Chief Operating and Policy Officer role.
This shift came as the DNCL readied itself for .nz policy making responsibilities moving to InternetNZ.
The office has also had some significant wins including working with affected registrants to release 6,675 conflicted names. DNCL also rolled out a privacy option for individual registrants allowing them to withhold certain registration details from public display on the .nz query service (formally the WHOIS).
Along with the privacy changes, the DNCL collaborates with NZRS Limited on risks identified around use of the Port 43 WHOIS service. After consultation with users of the Port 43 WHOIS, the DNCL implemented security changes to the output of the Port 43 WHOIS that were designed to protect registrants and the register itself.
Disputes and the Dispute Resolution Service (DRS)
As part of the Domain Name Commission’s role of helping individuals with their .nz online presence, we handle and resolve a number of disputes.
Disputes regarding .nz domain names can centre on several different topics. These can include how to get a UDAI (an identifier) from a Registrar or a dispute about who should have a .nz domain name.
With all disputes, we recommend that the parties involved try to resolve it between themselves first. This way, there is already an open dialogue between the parties, and the Domain Name Commission can assist the parties in reaching a suitable outcome.
DNCL administers a Dispute Resolution Service for anyone who wants to dispute the rights to a .nz domain name. This free-to-file service is a convenient and cost-effective alternative to going to Court. The Domain Name Commission also covers the cost of the dispute to go to Mediation.
An overview of the DRS is available here.
DRS Outcomes in 2017-2018
Users of the Service
40% of all participants using the DRS appointed a representative to assist in their case. A representative isn’t necessarily a Lawyer; it could be someone with a technical understanding of domain names, or just someone that a person has asked to advocate on their behalf during the process.
Used a rep
Didn't use a rep
Used a rep
Didn't use a rep
A majority of both complainants and respondents are New Zealand based. This speaks to the .nz domain name space being for people, business and communities that wish to have a New Zealand online presence.
Top 4 Countries
Complainant AUS (4), US(3), UK (2), China (1)
Respondent China (5), Aus (2), India (1) Other (1)
Issues in the Disputes
Of the disputes that were received this year, 6 of the parties had noted that there was some prior relationship between parties. Working together to try and resolve the domain name dispute helped to maintain some sort of ongoing relationship.
Identical or similar
Likely to confuse,
mislead or deceive
Outcomes of Disputes
There were a total of 6 disputes that went to mediation this year, half of which settled at mediation, while in the remainder of cases, the parties settled outside of mediation. The final two mediated cases were referred to an Expert for decision. In both cases the Expert determined that a transfer of the domain name between the parties should occur.
In the DRS policy there is an allowance for a presumption of Unfair Registration, where a Respondent has had three or more determinations against them in the previous two years. This is currently the case with the respondent Zhu Xumei in relation to Disputes 1242, 1252 and 1283.
The Domain Name Commission also offers a service where parties who are planning on lodging a complaint via the DRS are able to apply for a search for any other domain name registered to the registrant of the disputed domain name. This means more second level domains may be able to included in the original complaint. The form for this service is called the WHO3 and can be found here.
Complaints that are submitted are verified to ensure that the necessary information has been provided. This is not the Domain Name Commission deciding that the complainant doesn’t have rights, or that the registration is an unfairregistration, it is ensuring that these arguments are actually made in the complaint.
The three biggest reasons why complaints do not meet policy requirements are the following:
- The name mark that is listed as having rights in does not match the evidence that is provided
- The complainant does not show the right they hold (and not a related third party), nor provide evidence of these.
- The complainant does not show how the registration in the hands of the respondent is an ‘unfair registration’
In 2018 the Commission plans to work with the New Zealand Law Society to deliver a webinar for legal practitioners to assist with the lodgement of domain name disputes.
The Complainant, business A, was a competitor of business B in the construction industry. Business A lodged a complaint, regarding a domain name that business B was the registrant of. Business B submitted a response to the complaint that allowed the dispute to go to mediation. The mediator tried to resolve the dispute between the parties that had both appointed representatives to advocate for them.
Unfortunately, the Mediator and the parties were unable to come to an agreement. However, before fees were paid for the dispute to go to Expert Determination, the parties came to an agreement over the disputed domain name.
Points to note:
It is important that we encourage the parties try and initiate a dialogue themselves; not only can this can help not only the mediator to try and resolve the dispute, but will also allow the parties to reach an agreed outcome themselves if mediation is unsuccessful.
Policy and Compliance
was the preferred contact method
include Conflicted Names, Customer Service, Resellers
The Domain Name Commission handled many enquiries this year about our conflicted name process. A conflicted name is where equivalent names exist in more than one second level of .nz – with all registered before 30 May 2012. The Commission’s conflicted name process enables conflicted registrants of a conflicted domain name to have their say on who (if anyone) might register name at the second level.
This year started with 14,677 conflicted names and ended up with 2,452.
The Commission’s conflicted names communications strategy resulted in 4 notifications to registrants about the 18 October 2017 deadline to lodge a preference for the conflict set. The expiry of the deadline led to 6,024 preferences lodged.
Between October and December 2017 our Office, with the assistance of NZRS Ltd, managed the release to market of many previously conflicted domains that became available on a first-come, first-served basis. DNCL achieved the release through work the Office did with individual registrants to manage their domain name preferences.
The Commission’s experience with conflicted names has now matured with the closure of the Preferential Registration Eligibility (PRE) period.
There was a substantial trend in new creates in .nz activity towards the later part of 2017, following the deadline to lodge a preference for a conflicted domain name, and subsequent removal of parties who had not done so. This saw a number of previously conflicted domain names released to the market which were subsequently registered.
For the first time, likely due to lower numbers of domain names in the typical conflict set, demand rose for the DNCL’s conflict facilitation service. The main takeaway here is that getting the parties in the conflict set to open a dialogue is critical to the resolution of the conflict set.
When registrants contact us about an unresolved enquiry we may treat this as a complaint and notify the .nz authorised registrar that we have received a complaint against them.
This year we started work on a project to enhance the classification and categorisation of all contact with the office. This will allow the office to better understand the issues we handle as well as enhance future reporting.
In the 217-18 year, the Domain Name Commissioner issued no sanctions against .nz authorised Registrars.
The 2017/18 fiscal year marks the conclusion of DNCL‘s dual responsibility for the .nz policy consultation framework and enforcement of that function. The separation of policy creation and enforcement transpired as a result of InternetNZ’s organisational review. The stewardship of .nz policy will be divided up along the lines of creation and enforcement.
As a final act of DNCL-led policy creation, this year the Commission consulted the local .nz internet community about proposed changes to the WHOIS Port 43 protocol with the goal of improving the security of the .nz domain name space. DNCL also looked at an aspect of its dispute resolution services policy and administrative changes in all existing policies to give effect to the merger of NZRS and InternetNZ.
We finalised the comprehensive review of the .nz WHOIS. The outcome of the review led to a revised policy around WHOIS and an Individual Registrant Privacy Option (IRPO) for domain name holders not in significant trade.
For our Port 43 consultation, the DNCL received seven submissions from individuals and private organisations. The outcome of the consultation was to reduce the amount of personal information about Registrants returned through a WHOIS Port 43 look-up, and to introduce a reCAPTCHA to the DNCL’s web-based .nz query service.
The Commission also reviewed clause 4.3 of the Dispute Resolution Service policy in regard to whether it should keep or remove the provision. The Commission received 3 submissions and decided to keep the clause ahead of a planned end to end review of the Dispute Resolution Service policy in 2018.
There was no feedback received concerning the machinery of policy changes needed to give effect to the merger of NZRS and InternetNZ, so these changes to the policies will be given effect in 2018-2019.
A significant amount of time in 2017-18 was devoted to the implementation of the Individual Registrant Privacy Option. Between 28 November 2017 and 28 March Registrars were able to voluntarily offer the service before it became mandatory.
Since the individual Registrant Privacy Option (RPO) became mandatory for all .nz Registrars to offer, the registrants of more than 7,000 domain names have taken up the offer to withhold their phone and address details. This has been a positive development. Consumers nowadays understand better the principles of only collecting and sharing the minimum amount of personal information required to get the best service, or where there are pressing public policy needs.
DNCL also plans to further enhance our approach to privacy with the commencement of the European General Data Protection Regulation (EU GDPR) on 25 May 2018 and the pending amendments to New Zealand’s Privacy Act.
Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
This year we commenced a program of work to strengthen the reputation of .nz as a safe and trusted country code top-level domain (ccTLD).
Information taken from our enquiry operations is supplemented by other sources, including de-identified information sharing among global ccTLD regulators, and from national regulators, law enforcement, and industry stakeholders as well as online forums and social media.
We also receive a large number of reports from members of the public about the .nz domain name space. We use these as an essential source of information that helps us assess risks and take action as appropriate, including passing on to other authorities.
Where possible, we aim to identify and treat risks before they lead to actual consumer harm. Regulatory risks are market behaviours that:
- represent non-compliance with the .nz policy framework we regulate
- present potential or actual registrant harm
- have an impact on our ability to be an effective regulator
- require a regulatory response due to public concern.
We put our effort where it counts and target the areas of highest risk and harm. Risks can take many forms – for example, threats posed by:
- a particular product
- the conduct of an individual Registrar
- a new or emerging business practice, or
- the behaviour or business model of an entire industry.
We use a range of compliance tools, underpinned by a compliance strategy that ultimately seeks to influence market outcomes. We make decisions on compliance actions to achieve results that deter unlawful conduct and promote future compliance.
We take enforcement action to serve the public interest. We exercise discretion, focusing on measures that can bring beneficial outcomes to all consumers. We do not act on behalf of individuals to obtain redress.
Our key objective is voluntary compliance, so whenever possible, our engagements with business will be for compliance assistance and education.
Every day our Office continues to do business as usual, working to strengthen the integrity of the .nz domain name space in the area of registration abuse and the use of invalid registration details.
The validation of registration details falls under our mandate and is an integral part of how we work towards a trusted .nz domain name space.
The process is underpinned, first and foremost by the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness. However, this makes the process very labour-intensive, as it involves phone and email contact with the Registrant in question, as well as the sending of a physical letter.
In keeping with our commitment to keep the .nz domain name space open, neutral, safe and trusted, in October 2017 the Commission strengthened its approach to tackling invalid registration details in the .nz domain name space.
domain names for incorrect or invalid registration details
In the six month period between October and March 2018, the Domain Name Commission cancelled 103 domain names for incorrect or invalid registration details. These cancellations are in contrast to 2 domain name registration cancellations between April 2017 and September 2017.
domain name registration cancellations between April 2017 and September 2017.
We have also commenced a program of work to follow up domain names we are made aware of by CERT NZ or other trusted notifiers, and those brought to our attention by members of the public.
Over the last year, we have seen a steady upward trend in cancellations of non-compliant domain names for having invalid contact details, and as we solidify our thinking of processes when it comes to poor registration details, this number will only increase.
These cancellations occurred in the context of a broadening public debate around illegal and offensive content and infrastructure abuse involving increased cyber criminality and cyber warfare.
The invalid registration details process is the only internal compliance and information security tool currently available to the Domain Name Commissioner. The only other useful tool for cancelling a domain name involves a party seeking a order from the High Court of New Zealand. In 2017-18 the Domain Name Commission was not named as a second defendant in any High Court proceedings involving domain name cancellations.
In 2018-19, with the community’s increasing participation in the digital economy, it is clear that these types of issues will not stop happening online. Such issues are worthy of a multi-stakeholder approach, and require greater cooperation by agencies with involvement in the .nz local internet community in order to solve them.
This year we began the first independent review of the Domain Name Commission’s operations. The report is to be undertaken by David Pickens. The review is intended to assess the Domain Name Commission’s operations against benchmarks for what it means to be a good regulator. Various stakeholders will be approached to contribute to the review. The review’s findings will be made public, and a program of work will commence in 2019-20 to respond to the recommendations of the report.
The DNCL engages with the local internet community including registrars, Government and other industry professionals as well as the everyday New Zealanders who access our services.
Our relationships with all of these groups benefit and strengthen the .nz domain name space.
The Domain Name Commission’s awareness work has two distinct audiences. First, the staff of .nz authorised Registrars covered by .nz policies and any resellers that may be working in the space. Second, the broader internet community.
Registrars, resellers and registrants all need to be aware of their responsibilities under the .nz policy framework concerning the management of .nz domain names. The latter need to be mindful that they have responsibilities in relation to their registration records.
Publications and Media Interaction
In the last year, the engagement from the DNCL has experienced a shift with a more substantial number of media enquiries and active media work around the Individual Registrant Privacy Option, the incoming Commissioner and the Port 43 WHOIS changes. All of these opportunities presented a chance for us to further educate around different areas in .nz and about the Commission itself.
Registrar Advisory Group
The Registrar Advisory Group is an elected group of .nz authorised registrars who represent the .nz Registrar community. It mainly operates online during the year through a group list.
The advisory group assists with the implementation and promotion of the .nz policy framework. One face-to-face meeting occurred during 2017-18, subjects covered included Terms and Conditions, General Data Privacy Regulation and Privacy options of Registrars. The advisory group has also agreed to meet quarterly to help further lift engagement.
.nz policy Training
This year the Office joined in with the NZRS trial of Zoom as a platform to deliver short information sessions on topics of interest to staff of .nz authorised Registrars. One of the most popular information sessions provided through the program was material produced and delivered by our Support Analyst on the Individual Registrant Privacy Option. We have plans to work on our approach to e-learning as part of our compliance program for 2019-2022.