Registration and use of domains at ccTLD registryRegistry
Which entity is responsible for registration of domain names in the country code top-level domain (ccTLD)?
The registry for the ccTLDs .ch (for Switzerland) and .li (for Liechtenstein) is handled by SWITCH, a foundation created under Swiss law. SWITCH has been entrusted with this task since the internet was first used in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It manages all domain names ending in .ch and .li in the global domain name system. SWITCH provides the services on behalf of the Swiss Confederation (Federal Office of Communications) and the Principality of Liechtenstein (Office for Communications).
SWITCH’s resale partners, known as registrars, are responsible for selling domain names to customers. In January 2015, SWITCH stopped selling domain names and Switzerland now uses a system with registries and registrars (with a separation between them). A list of registrars approved by SWITCH can be found on its website.
Moreover, the administration of the newly created gTLD .swiss is administered by the Swiss Confederation through the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM), but reselling also occurs through approved registrars. A list of approved registrars can be found on the dot.swiss website. The gTLD .swiss is a specific ‘Swissness’ domain name aimed at promoting the ‘Switzerland brand’ and is only granted to legal entities with an established connection to Switzerland.Method
How are domain names registered?
Domain names can only be registered through a registrar acknowledged by SWITCH. SWITCH does not accept registration requests. The registration agreement is always concluded between the registrant and the registrar.
The Swiss Federal Act on Telecommunications provides the statutory basis for the Ordinance on Internet Domains (OID), which came into effect in November 2014, and provides the basis for SWITCH and their competence to delegate the marketing and reselling of domain names to registrars (article 9 and 17 et seq of the OID). The administration of domains has been explicitly carved out from the Ordinance on Address Elements in the Telecommunications Sector. However, Annex 2.13 of the Ordinance of OFCOM on Telecommunications Services and Address Elements provides technical rules on the allocation and administration of second-level domain names under the ccTLD .ch. Also, SWITCH has published general terms and conditions for the registration and administration of the ccTLDs .ch and .li. The OID and the general terms and conditions of SWITCH provide that domain names must consist of three to 63 alphanumeric signs (including the umlaut and accents). The registration is governed under the principle of first come, first served. Nevertheless, registration of domain names may not infringe the private rights of other third parties and the statutory laws applicable to them remain reserved (article 47 paragraph 2 of the OID). Article 14, letter c of the OID and section 4.2 of the general terms and conditions of SWITCH provide for a non-mandatory alternative dispute resolution procedure.Duration
For how long is registration effective?
This depends on the conditions granted by the chosen registrar. Under the conditions of most registrars, registration is effective for 12 months. If a domain name is not renewed after this term, it is usually subject to a redemption grace period of 30 days before becoming publicly available again.Cost
What is the cost of registration?
The cost of registration varies depending on the chosen registrar. The cost is usually from 15 Swiss francs (for the ccTLD .ch) to 120 Swiss francs (for the gTLD .swiss), and the prices are the same for yearly renewals.Transfer
Are registered domain names transferable? If so, how? Can the use of a domain name be licensed?
A domain name holder must enter into a binding agreement with a registrar granting him or her the right and access to a specific domain name. Thus, from a contractual perspective, the assignment of this domain name to a third party requires the registrar to be informed and have given their consent. In common registrar practice, domain names may be transferred to a third party by using an authorisation code, which is provided by the current registrar of the domain name concerned. However, assignment requests in connection with a dispute relating to a specific domain are not executed without a valid court decision ordering this assignment (and usually the domain name remains blocked until the dispute is resolved).
Also, the use of a domain name can be licensed. In a licence agreement, a domain name holder would typically grant a third party access to the website associated with the domain name’s IP address and the right to use and create a website for its own purposes.ccTLD versus gTLD registration
What are the differences, if any, with registration in the ccTLD as compared with a generic top-level domain (gTLD)?
Under the Swiss system of registries and registrars, the registration agreement is always concluded between the registrant and the registrar. This also applies to the new gTLD domain name .swiss, which is administered by the Swiss Confederation, but offered and re-sold through registrars. Other gTLDs, for example, .biz, .com, .info, .net and .org, are generally administered at an international level by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and the registration procedure is delegated to registrars under strict accreditation guidelines applicable to registrars.
Regarding the ccTLDs .ch and .li, registrants need neither to fulfil specific eligibility requirements nor be a Swiss citizen or have domicile in Switzerland to register such a domain name. One cannot assume that a Swiss company is the underlying owner of a website with a .ch or .li ccTLD. The majority of the registrar’s terms and conditions do not require an official representative in Switzerland to register a .ch or .li ccTLD.
Regarding the new gTLD .swiss, this domain is only available to legal entities, and the eligibility requirements demand that applicants have a proven and established connection to Switzerland. This connection can be demonstrated through domicile (or at least administrative domicile) in Switzerland and a registration in the Swiss commercial register. Generic additional second-level domains combined with .swiss, such as tourist.swiss, finetools.swiss, armyknife.swiss or flug.swiss (meaning flight.swiss in English), are specially protected and may only be used for the benefit of the community concerned. Applicants must provide proof of this benefit when applying for such a naming mandate.
Records in the WHOIS register may contain the registrant’s information or may not. Currently, the enactment of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the revision of the Swiss Federal Data Protection Act (FADP), which will be aligned with the strictness of the GDPR, has caused some controversy concerning whether it is legitimate to disclose the registrants’ data in the WHOIS register to the entire global internet community. This has led many registrars to hide their registrants’ data from the WHOIS register and, thus, the WHOIS register would only indicate the name of the registrar (instead of the registrant). Concerning the ccTLDs .ch and .li, currently, almost all registrants’ data is available in the Swiss WHOIS register of the SWITCH registry. Whether this will remain unchanged in the course of the enactment of the new and stricter FADP, is not yet certain.Registrants’ privacy
Is the registrant’s contact information freely available? Can the registrant use a privacy service to hide its contact information?
Many registrars have started to hide their registrants’ data from the WHOIS register because of data protection concerns. In Switzerland, registrants have the opportunity to use privacy services to hide their contact information through a provider called Swizzonic Ltd. It offers registrants the opportunity to publish the name of a representative in the WHOIS database without the contact details of the registrant. The service is increasingly used and also provides the advantage of less identity theft and unsolicited advertisement emails received to the detriment of registrars.
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5 February 2021.