Domain Name Ownership – Who Owns Yours?

domain name ownership

Ensure that you have domain name ownership if you take over someone else’s business or purchase an existing domain name.

Domain Name Ownership can be a real minefield. We regularly take over clients from other web designers and then have to inform them that they don’t actually own their own domain name. Without legal ownership of your domain name you could find that you have problems with;

  • Managing email accounts
  • Handing problems with hosting
  • Accessing your website files
  • Renewing your domain name

You will also find it impossible to personally transfer domain name ownership to anyone else if you sell your business. If your business is online or has a significant online presence, this could severely undermine the value of your business or even prevent a sale entirely.

How do domain name ownership problems happen?

Often, domain name ownership issues are caused by a previous web designer who registered the domain name in their own name instead of the name of the client or their clients company. This is a very common mistake that happens far too often. If you have a NZ domain name registered on your behalf or take over a domain name from someone else, the registration details should be listed as follows;

  1. The registrar is the company that is authorised by the NZ Domain Name Commission to register the domain name. A web designer will normally have an account with a registrar so that they can register the domain name for you.
  2. The registrant is the owner of the domain name. That should be you!
  3. The admin contact is normally where the bills get sent. Sometimes this will be you and sometimes it will be the web designer or host.
  4. The technical contact could be you, your web designer, your host or the registrar. This is who is meant to sort out any problems.

Note that domain name ownership details are often wrong for the admin and technical contacts as well. The registrar details should always be correct.

When web designers go bad…

One of the most frustrating problems with domain name ownership is when a web designer registers a domain name for the customer in their own name and then disappears. Usually, this is because they sold their business or went out of business and when this happens, there is not normally any great motivation on their part to deal with the problems they’ve caused.

However, there are other (worse) reasons that domain name ownership can go sour. We were contacted a few years ago by someone whose web designer had closed the business and left the country entirely. They were somewhere in China, not responding to phone calls or emails. I’ve also seen cases of where a web designer is in a dispute with a customer and uses their ownership of the domain name to close the website down in revenge.

We recently took over a client from the Yellow Pages who had received exceptionally poor service. They had waited weeks for their website and had eventually given up and come to us. Yellow Pages initially claimed that they owned the domain name (they didn’t) and refused to let it go. After sending the ownership details to them they gave in and sent the UDAI code to allow us access to the domain name – but it was the wrong code. We requested another one. That was wrong too. For some as-yet unknown reason, the registrar for this domain name was a company in Germany. The technical contact was a company in Denmark. At the time of writing, we still can’t access the clients domain name and have been told that each UDAI code takes 24 hours to get. We can get a UDAI for our clients in a couple of minutes.

Check your domain name ownership. You can do this at the DNC website. Sorting out any issues now will prevent complications in future. If all else fails, you can contact us at Energise Web if your existing web designer isn’t helping, or the NZ Domain Name Commission for assistance if someone is holding on to your domain name due to a dispute or malpractice.


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