On 12 April 2021 a new set of rules for the .au country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) - the .au Domain Administration (auDA) Rules - took effect.
This new set of rules contains some changes to how complaints about domains in the .au ccTLD and registrars are handled.
You can read the rules here: .au Domain Administration Rules: Licensing
When these changes apply
The changes to the complaints process took effect on 12 April 2021 and apply to all names created, transferred, or renewed on or after that date.
What can you complain about
All complaints must be related to the responsibilities or obligations of a Registrant or Registrar under the auDA Rules. This includes issues such as whether a person is eligible to hold a domain name, or the actions of a registrar regarding a domain name. This has not changed under the new licensing rules.
Consumer issues, website content and issues relating to web hosting, email services, spam, malware, and phishing are not covered by the auDA rules and should be referred to the appropriate government agencies.
You cannot lodge a complaint about a decision made by auDA in the Public Interest (2.17 of the auDA rules).
The new complaints process
Under the auDA Rules, auDA has a four-tiered complaints process.
1. Initial complaint
In all instances, whether about a registrant, domain name or registrar, a complaint must be first lodged with the registrar of record. The registrar of record for a domain name is listed in the public WHOIS service.
Under the previous published policies, complaints could be submitted directly to auDA. The new licensing rules recognise that in the first instance, registrars are best placed to deal with complaints about domain name licences for which they are the registrar.
The registrar has 30 calendar days to resolve the issue, or must advise you of when it will be resolved if longer than that.
When the registrar has made a decision, they must inform you of the decision and of the reasons for that decision, as well as of your right to a review of that decision.
2. Review of a registrar decision
If you're unhappy with a registrar's decision on a complaint, and have exhausted all avenues of redress/escalation with them, you can then request auDA perform a review of that decision.
If a registrar’s decision was to cancel the domain licence in question, you have five calendar days to request a review of the decision.
For other outcomes (e.g. the complaint was denied) you’ll have 28 days from the date of the registrar decision to request a review.
Provided you've submitted all the necessary information, auDA then has 28 days to conduct a review and may revoke, affirm or vary the decision or hand it back to the registrar for reconsideration.
Once auDA has made a decision you'll be informed of it and the reasons for it, along with your right to request an internal review of auDA's decision.
3. Internal review of auDA's decision
If you are affected by a decision made by auDA, you can apply for an internal review of that decision.
Where auDA has decided to cancel a licence, a request for an internal review of that decision must be lodged within 48 hours of receiving auDA’s notification of its decision.
For all other outcomes the application must be lodged within 28 calendar days of the date of the decision.
The internal review will be conducted by someone not involved in the original decision and more senior to the person who made the original decision.
If your application is valid, auDA will put on hold any decision made earlier until it has completed its review and let you know when you can expect a decision.
The reviewer may affirm, vary or revoke the decision made in auDA’s review of the registrar decision.
You'll be notified of the outcome of the review and the reasoning, as well as your right to lodge a request for an external review.
4. External Review
External Reviews are conducted by the Licence Review Panel, which consists of people who cannot be employees, directors or consultants to auDA or a registrar.
Applications for an external review must be lodged within 10 days of receiving the decision of an internal review of auDA's decison.
There is a fee to lodge an application for an external review.
Provided you've paid the required fee and included all the required information, the information will be forwarded to a member of the Licence Review Panel for consideration.
The role of the Licence Review panel is to assess whether auDA has applied the rules correctly based on the information that was provided. It's important to note that the Licence Review Panel can only review the case based on the material provided, and cannot take into consideration any material not previously provided to auDA as part of the complaints process. Under the previous set of published policies, the review panel could request further information.
The panel has 10 days to reach and advise you of the outcome. The panel may affirm auDA's decision, set it aside and make its own decision, or refer it back to auDA for reconsideration.