Network Solutions Preregisters Searched Domains

Read that title again. Network Solutions preregisters searched domains. If you visit NetworkSolutions.com to search for and find an available domain, Network Solutions will pre-register it, on your behalf, for a full year — and then force you to pay the exorbitant fee of $34.99 to switch ownership to you.
This happened to one of our new customers today. They were looking for a domain for their business, and apparently happened to perform that search at Network Solutions. After deciding on a domain, they asked us to go ahead and register it through our eNom reseller account, as our $8.99 annual price is much less than that of Network Solutions.

While provisioning the new account, we discovered that the domain was no longer available. Only four hours had passed between the time our customer performed the search, and the time we acted to register the domain. Not available.

We performed a WHOIS on the domain to see why the domain could not be registered. To our dismay, the following “official” WHOIS record came up. Please study this in detail, and you will see why the first word that came to mind was “extortion”:

Note, in detail, the fact that the domain was registered today (January 19, 2008) and would expire one year later. Also note the use of the nameservers listed (these pointed to a default holding page): ns1 and ns2.reserveddomainname.com.

Also note this statement on the WHOIS record:

This Domain is Available – Register it Now!
600,000 domain names are registered daily! Don’t delay; there’s no guarantee
that a domain name you see today will still be here tomorrow!
Register it Now at www.NetworkSolutions.com.

Of course there’s no guarantee. Network Solutions just might decide to register it and steal it away from you!

In essence, Network Solutions DID in fact register the domain that our customer was searching for. The only option to retain that domain would be to pay Network Solutions their high price for that domain.

As we said earlier, it felt like extortion, plain and simple.

Without any other option, we chose to complete the registration for the domain at Network Solutions and immediately have the domain released for transfer to our eNom account (at no additional cost to our customer).

After completing the “registration”, we performed a new WHOIS lookup on the domain. And, what do you know? The domain record had been instantly updated with the correct information as we entered it:

Note the fact that the same expiration date remained unchanged. This is proof that the domain had already been registered, and that Network Solutions simply transferred ownership of the domain to our customer, simply because we paid them their extortion fee.

Many years ago companies would perform “domain prospecting” in hopes of registering a domain that one day might become popular. Certain unscrupulous companies would go so far as to register domains with trademarked brand names of other companies. The domains would be offered for sale if the owner of the brand would agree to pay a high price. Of course, many rightful owners of the brands simply turned around and sued the prospectors for having infringed on their copyright by registering the domain in the first place.

That was many years ago. It is rare for companies to do this today, and practically unheard of for a domain registrar to nefariously steal away a domain that a well-intentioned owner of the brand wishes to research and register.

In our opinion (and this is simply an opinion), only a company desperate for business, devoid of business ethics, and willing to do “whatever it takes to keep your business” (a direct quote from Network Solutions’ domain control panel) would behave in this manner. What this tells us is that our prior beliefs — about Network Solutions losing business, and likely headed for implosion — seem to be coming true.

With their latest stunt of pre-registering domains and forcing would-be domain owners to buy from them, Network Solutions is inviting a class action lawsuit, especially if they continue to pre-register domains containing the trademarked brand names of other companies.
 
Our newest customer may not be a multinational corporation, but they have the right to protect their brand, as does any other company. We have a feeling that, were this to happen to a larger company, Network Solutions could well find itself being sued by that company for trademark infringement. And, were it to lose the case, it would seem poetic justice, served, for Network Solutions to end up fighting for the right to retain ownership of its own name.

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