Interview with Domain Registry of America

Email Interview with “Simon” (no last name given), minimal editing, all questions accepted with permission to post under condition of posting response in entirety, and request not to submit as part of any article for a publication.

GBG: What is your position at Domain Registry of America?

Simon: I am one of the [general] supervisors.

GBG: Your company has been accused of “slamming”, or tricking customers into switching registrars. A number of other registrars have had similar accusations made against them. What is your response to this?

Simon: The accusations are false. It is IMPOSSIBLE to switch from one registrar to another without responding to a series of transfer request emails. Nobody can be “tricked” when their verification is required 5 times in order to complete the transfer of registrars. These accusations of “slamming” only come from competing firms of ours.

GBG: How many mail pieces prompting a switch in service do you send out in a n average month, and which domain roles do you solicit mail to – all of them, just administrative, billing, technical?

Simon: We do not give out company strategies and every month is different depending on our market research. [And] we have spent a lot of money researching this and we are not in a possession to give out such info. We’re a private company so I have to keep some things that way.

GBG: From your experience, is the person managing a domain (i.e. someone who deals with their current registrar) usually well informed on domain issues, or someone who is just in charge of paying bills or other business process, such as a typical small business owner?

Simon: It varies. We deal with a wide variety of clientele from farmers in the valley with one single domain to hosting companies that register hundreds of domains with us on a monthly basis. We treat every customer with the same level of professionalism and appreciation. Our customers will confirm this fact.

GBG: In an earlier conversation, you stated “It is impossible for anyone to switch to our company by mistake,” and that “A series of electronic confirmations are required in order to transfer a domain from one company to another. This method avoids any confusion.” Please tell us a little about this process and how it may prevent unwanted switching.

Simon: Without registrant consent, the transfer of a domain CANNOT take place. The emails state very clearly who the losing and gaining registrars are. NOBODY has EVER accidentally switched to our company. It is impossible. It CANNOT happen.

As for the process, here goes: [1] We obtain authorization from the registrant who has the authority to legally bind the registered name holder. [2] The form of authorization is an email link to our website to which the individual of authority must approve or disapprove of the transfer. As the gaining registrar we are required to retain a record of the authorization and as such we maintain the time, date, decision, and IP address. [3] Once approval is provided a transfer request is issued to reflect the new registrar in the Registry database. Both the registrant and the losing registrar MUST either approve or disapprove the request. [4] Once the transfer is completed both the losing and gaining registrar are informed of this by the Registry Operator (Verisign) and in turn the gaining registrar informs the individual of authority who initiated the transfer. [5] Once approval is provided to us, we initiate a transfer request to reflect us as the new registrar in the Registry database. Our automated system approves the transfer requests. [6] Once the transfer is completed both the losing and gaining registrars are informed of this by Verisign and in turn the new registrar informs the individual of authority who initiated the transfer.

There are a total of 5 emails to be verified before the transfer of a domain to our company can complete.

GBG: How often do you receive customer service inquiries about people having switched, or making a payment to switch, by mistake?

Simon: Every so often we will get a call from a customer who has sent us payment by accident, as do other identities as well. However once they get one of our customer service representatives on the phone, they usually decide to remain with our company. You see, one thing this industry is severely missing is customer service. Until now, domain holders have been dealing with registrars that keep their clientele on a 20 minute wait before an operator even answers, only to be discouraged with the lack of assistance they are provided. It is for this very reason our company grew so fast; our customer (and technical) support is second to none. We guarantee it. Customer care is as important as your service or product. There are many registration companies that don’t even provide a phone number in which they can be reached, and these are BIG organizations.

I urge anyone to test Domain Registry of America on our customer support. As well, we are the only company I know of that will actually respond to email inquiries AND within an hour.

GBG: After the FTC statement … have there been any significant changes in the snail mail marketing materials or related processes? And if changes were made, have you received fewer complaints since that time?

Simon: If you READ the FTC statement (albeit lengthy) it states nowhere about changes having to be made to our mail outs. The only change we were required to make was that we are no longer able to charge an administration fee when processing a refund (we lose money in the process). The “Important Notice” was removed and changed to “Domain Name Renewal Notice” but we suggested that to the FTC as they felt Important notice was a bit strong

It’s funny how people see our name on the FTC website and assume the worst. People don’t take the time to READ the article. It’s these same types of people that don’t actually READ our solicitation. People don’t read.

GBG: I noticed in a recent mailing, you talk up front about “switching”, yet my client almost mailed you a check, thinking it was necessary to keep their name.

Simon: But your client DIDN’T mail the payment. Obviously they understood they are not obligated to pay us anything. In fact, it even states within our letter that no one is under any obligation to use our services.

GBG: Your mailing makes clear warnings of various potential losses by not renewing a domain name, which some critics online have called a “fear tactic” to prompt action. Considering the mailings are sometimes many months before renewal is required, what is the reason for the language in the mailing?

Simon: I don’t agree that our mailing is a “fear tactic.” However I will say that it is aggressive. In the world of business you have to be. We didn’t want to be another fly by night registrar that sits back and waits for the business to come to them. Where do you think those businesses are now? The language in the mailings is quite clear if one READS it.

Anybody can be an “online critic.” That’s the problem with the Internet – suddenly EVERYBODY has a forum to voice their opinions. There are forums online where people criticize everything from the war on terrorism to Gap commercials.

GBG: Is there any consideration when mailing as to how soon a domain name is about to expire?

Simon: It doesn’t matter. Sometimes we renew domains that still have years left in their terms. The reason for this is because we add the years on to the existing term. In other words, no one loses time on the domain they have already paid for.

GBG: There is news of your company’s recent expansion in marketing to the UK. Is there any information you’d like to share about marketing initiatives in other countries?

Simon: Like most businesses, we’re looking to expand. There are great opportunities abroad, and there are several competitors of ours doing business in places offering customer service that doesn’t compare to ours. We’re hoping to eventually tap that market also. It will take some time for new markets to warm up to us, but once they start communicating with us they will see how easy we are to deal with. As I said before, customer care goes a long way and ultimately prevails. Just like North America, other markets WILL appreciate our service and competitive pricing. 

For the record, here is the letter received, and when asked what they thought it was, the response (coming from a paralegal) was

I opened the letter from that group and I thought that it was an invoice that we had to pay to keep our name registered. 

Yes, if you read it through, I as someone who deals with the web find it clearly not an invoice, but the question remains: would the average person take the time to read something that might be a bill about a service they may not be clear about, or just pay it to avoid the repercussions stated in the letter?

Decide for yourself.

DROA_Mailing (PDF)