ICANN was busy this week. In the same week, ICANN both strengthened the position of consumers through one action while weakening it with another. The action that strengthens the position of consumers was allowing the inclusion of the Uniform Rapid Suspension to be added to the renewal contracts of several “legacy” (non-new-gTLDs), such as <.travel>. 

ICANN was busy this week. In the same week, ICANN both strengthened the position of consumers through one action while weakening it with another. The action that strengthens the position of consumers was allowing the inclusion of the Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) to be added to the renewal contracts of several “legacy” (non-new-gTLDs), such as <.travel>. While we have our doubts about the value of the URS as a dispute mechanism which only allows for suspension of domain names until their expiration rather than transfer like the UDRP allows (especially as it has been interpreted by certain URS panelists), there can be little doubt that the move was a nod to intellectual property interests and may have some positive effects on consumer protection and trust in the marketplace.

However, this same week ICANN announced that it was “waiving” the insurance requirements for registrars. While this may seem innocent enough since most large, reputable registrars will carry insurance anyway, the waiver could result in a lack harmed registrants’ ability to obtain suitable remedies when they deal with less stable or less reputable registrars who choose not to be insured.

The issue of how best to protect consumers within the ICANN framework weighs heavily on the domain name community. This week ICANN called for volunteers for Competition, Consumer Trust, and Consumer Choice Review Team (Consumer Trust Review Team), a team that is required to be formed in order to comply with ICANN’s agreement with the United States Government (the agreement is vaguely called the “Affirmation of Commitments”). Any business that depends on the safety of the Internet as a method to communicate with and deliver goods or services to consumers should be keenly aware of ICANN’s movements as they affect consumers; should be sure to participate adequately at ICANN meetings (the next of which is in Dublin later this month); and should consider seeking a spot on the Consumer Trust Review Team to ensure that the interests of customers are given serious attention in the review process.

For a further discussion of the URS, the role of registrars in the ICANN ecosystem, and the Affirmation of Commitments, see McGrady on Domain Names