In a statement released today, PIR, the operator of the .ORG domain name registry, did not rule out the possibility of substantial price hikes on .org domain names if its new proposed contract is approved by ICANN.
In response to the thousands of objections submitted to ICANN by individual registrants, charities, religious groups, community organizations, and some of the largest and most prestigious organizations in America, PIR asked its customers to “rest assured” that it will not raise prices “unreasonably” and claims that it has “no specific plans” to hike prices.
Conspicuously absent however, is any promise to its customers not to raise prices beyond its current 10% price hike cap. Clearly, PIR is keeping all of its options open, and even in the professed absence of “any specific plans”, it is apparent that PIR likely has general plans to raise prices beyond the current 10% price cap with no limit in sight. This is hardly surprising, for if PIR intended to limit price hikes to the generous currently permitted 10% per year, it would have had no need whatsoever to request the removal of all price caps in the new proposed contract, and accordingly PIR’s claim that it is “simply moving to the standard registry agreement” rings hollow. If PIR was truly committed to keeping prices “reasonably low”, it would have simply agreed to keep the current 10% annual cap on price increases.
Indeed, the so-called “standard registry agreement” is only standard for the new gTLD domain names that were bought and paid for by private interests and which therefore have none of the unique characteristics of a legacy TLD that has been home for organizations throughout the world, long before PIR was awarded the exclusive contract by ICANN.
Despite PIR’s claim that it is “constrained by the competitive market”, PIR is in fact the only source of .org domain names. If the over 10 million .org registrants wish to continue using their existing domain names they are forced to pay whatever price PIR charges. If a .org registrant does not pay whatever inflated fee is levied by PIR for the ability to continue using its domain name, the registrant faces the unacceptable prospect of both an expensive and disruptive rebranding and the abandonment of its .org domain name to be taken over by another user with unknown intentions, perhaps even to undermine the mission of the current non-profit registrant. It is the unique and otherwise unconstrained control over the online homes built on .org domain names that makes price caps on .org domains so crucial in protecting the vibrant and vital community of non-profits that relies upon .org domain names.
Despite PIR claims that current registrants will have “the ability to lock in pricing at the then current rate for 10 years”, the actual proposed contract expressly leaves this up to particular registrars to offer such terms, in their discretion. Similarly, under the proposed contract, existing registrants are not entitled to receive notice of pending increases from PIR, but rather PIR only agrees to give notice of hikes in renewal pricing to registrars. Registrants may thereby be left exposed to dramatic price hikes on their existing domain names after their current term expires.
What has apparently been lost in the contract negotiation is the fact that ICANN is supposed to protect registrants and keep prices low, particularly in legacy TLDs where registrants have relied upon existing price constraints.
Legacy TLDs should not be treated like the new gTLDs nor priced like them nor managed like them.
For further reading, see:
“ICA Comment Letter Regarding Proposed Renewal of the .org Registry Agreement” (Submitted to ICANN, April 10, 2019)
“The economics of domain name prices” (Domain Name Wire, April 29, 2019)
“How ICANN uses the .Org registry to fund the Internet Society” (Domain Name Wire, April 24, 2019)
“The Spurious Justifications for Eliminating Price Caps on .org and Other Legacy Domains” (CircleID, April 23, 2019)
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