Judge to Verisign: Stop the Shenanigan's
Tuesday, May 28, 2002
Well, it appears that there just may be some justice in the world yet. A
judge ordered Verisign to stop sending
out deceptive "domain expiration" notices. The direct mail campaigns
succeeded in tricking many consumers into renewing their domains with
Verisign and, in many cases, switched hosting providers, resulting in downed
and unreachable Web sites. We posted some
pictures of these notices on our Web site a couple months back as
warning to our customers.
Verisign purchased Network Solutions a couple years back. Network Solutions
maintained the "phone book" for the Internet, a database which basically
translated domain names like "c4.net" into numeric Internet addresses.
Network Solutions' already tarnished name was completely ruined in the
process as Verisign attempted to migrate the Network Solutions database,
farmed out their tech support to the Philippines, and just in general
botched the whole mess.
In the meantime, ICANN, who more or less
governs Network Solutions/Verisign in regards to this database, opened up
the playing field, allowing companies like
BulkRegister to register domains
on behalf of consumers at greatly discounted prices. However, Verisign still
maintains the central database.
And that's where the problem arises. Verisign has, for all intents and
purposes, a list of all their competitors customers. Verisign knows their
names, their addresses, their e-mail accounts, where their domains are
hosted, etc. Using this information, Verisign began sending out bulk
mailings to competitor's customers when their domain was about to run out.
Customers unwittingly filled out these forms, not realizing that the small
print on the reverse side made Verisign the registrar for their domain and,
in many cases, switched the user's hosting company to Verisign partner.
Though the Verisign partners were more than willing to start billing for
these new found hosting customers, they didn't bother actually setting up
the Web sites. So, VeriSign not only stole back customers who had
purposefully left them for greener pastures, but brought down their Web
sites in the process. Way to go, Verisign. That's the way to do business.
The practice is analogous to outlawed Phone
Slamming, in which a consumer's telephone service is changed without
their permission. Verisign, of course, believes that customers gave them
their silent consent by paying the "bill." The courts, it would seem,