.au Domain Administration Limited (auDA) is a not-for-profit organisation that develops and administers the rules for the .au country code Top Level Domain (.au domain) in the public interest.
We undertake our work through broad and extensive multi-stakeholder engagement with a range of stakeholders including business, government, the technical community and civil society across Australia.
We also participate in national and international technical and policy fora to represent the .au domain and ensure the continued operation of an open, free, secure and global Internet.
The management of the .au domain has been delegated to auDA by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and auDA is endorsed by the Commonwealth Government to ensure the .au domain is a secure, reliable and trusted space for all Internet users.
In this paper we explain our approach to compliance and in the Appendix we provide an outline of the .au Licensing Framework and our compliance activities.
Our Compliance Posture
Promoting and maintaining trust and confidence in the .au domain is at the heart of our compliance posture. We will apply the principles of natural justice, make our processes convenient to use and ensure that fairness is a guiding principle.
To do this we:
- Work with stakeholders to develop appropriate rules and policies for the .au domain with clear compliance requirements
- Are outcome focused in determining the effectiveness and efficiency of our compliance approach
- Take a graduated approach to compliance based on risk and proportionality
- Apply our compliance approach consistently.
All compliance action is driven by our aim to assist registrants and registrars to achieve compliance. Accordingly, we have a proportionate, considered approach to encouraging and enabling ongoing compliance.
Our three-step approach to compliance is:
- Communicate and educate.
- Guide and facilitate.
- Enforcing our rules.
1. Communicate and educate
Through our public communications we inform and educate people to encourage and enable compliance with the .au licensing Rules.
We provide information about auDA and the.au Licensing Rules through a number of channels including our website, social media and public reports, business, government and community partnerships, and the media. We publish blogs and fact sheets that explain how to comply with the rules and will provide case studies in our Associate Member e-newsletter and on our website, to highlight common compliance challenges.
Our aim is to expand and continue to refine our communications to meet the needs of our stakeholders and continue to find new avenues to engage with the public.
2. Guide and facilitate
We aim to provide guidance and support to help people understand their obligations, to achieve ongoing compliance with the .au Licensing Rules and to access complaint and review processes.
We work with registrants, which include consumers, not-for-profit organisations, government bodies and businesses, to help them understand their compliance obligations and what they need to do to comply with the Licensing Rules.
We also work with registrars to help them understand what they need to do to meet their obligations under our Registrar Agreements and Registrar Rules.
When a person makes an enquiry or a complaint to auDA or seeks a review of a decision, we communicate with them about their compliance obligations, how best to meet those obligations, the available complaint and review processes, and how to access those processes.
To provide ongoing guidance, we will publish an annual Compliance Plan which sets out our compliance priorities and areas of focus, based on insights and data available to us. Compliance activities under the Plan will reference the auDA Compliance Posture and may use additional mechanisms such as audits of the registry data, audits of registrar processes and analysis of complaint data to identify issues.
3. Enforcing our rules
We recognise that public trust in the .au domain requires compliance with the .au Licensing Rules and the positive action by auDA to enforce applicable rules in fairness to all.
We recognise that the best compliance outcomes are achieved where auDA, registrars and registrants work collaboratively to rectify non-compliance. Where this is not possible, or where a party has not complied with auDA's rules, acted without good faith or unreasonably, auDA and the registrars have power to suspend or cancel a domain name licence. For example, this may occur when a registrant breaches the terms and conditions of a licence, where it is in the public interest or to comply with a court order or instrument made under Australian law.
Our Licensing Framework
There are a number of namespaces (e.g. au, com.au, org.au and edu.au) available to registrants within the .au domain. Different rules apply to different namespaces including who can register them (for example, the org.au namespace is for not-for-profit entities and the com.au namespace is for commercial entities) and what name a person who is eligible can register (for example, the domain name may be required to be a match of the name of the person or name of a commercial activity of the person).
We work with registrars to administer the rules in the .au domain. Registrars are:
- Accredited by auDA to provide services to domain name licence holders (registrants), including maintenance, delegation, creation, transfer, modification, renewal and cancellation of domain name licences
- Responsible for checking and validating information provided by registrants before submitting it to the .au registry
- The first level in the complaint system for handling complaints about the eligibility of a registrant to hold a particular domain name. A person may apply to auDA for a review of a decision made by, or the action or conduct of a registrar.
A licence to use a domain name is issued by auDA when the registrar has confirmed that a registrant meets all the relevant requirements under the .au Licensing Rules.
Some registrants purchase their domain name license through a reseller – a business that offers domain name registration and management services to the public but is not an accredited registrar. Resellers operate through agreements with accredited registrars and do not have relationships directly with auDA.
The agreements entered into between registrars and registrants incorporate our Licensing Rules and include obligations on the part of registrants to ensure that they continue to comply with the Licensing Rules for the term of their licence.
The.au Licensing Framework
The 2017/2018 review of the policies in the .au domain provided an opportunity to review, reform and consolidate the existing auDA Published Policies (legacy policies) into a single, uniform Licensing Framework that will apply to all namespaces (except gov.au and csiro.au).
The new Licensing Framework came into effect on 12 April 2021. The existing legacy policies will continue to apply to relevant domain name licences until those licences have expired, or been renewed or transferred.
The Framework includes the new Licensing Rules, Registrar Agreement and Registrar Rules. The Registrar Agreement and Rules outline registrars’ obligations to validate the identity and Australian presence of registrants, ensure registrants comply with eligibility and allocation criteria, and implement robust security standards and complaints processes that comply with best practice.
The Licensing Framework is designed to promote public confidence and trust in the .au domain by:
- Being transparent, responsive, accountable, accessible and efficient
- Improving the utility of the .au domain for all Australians
- Providing those protections necessary to maintain the integrity, stability, utility and public confidence in the .au domain
- Implementing clear, predictable and reliable complaints processes
- Promoting consumer protection, fair trading and competition
Our compliance activities
We undertake a range of compliance activities including:
- Public education, alerts and communications about our rules
- Publication of a Compliance Plan to set out our compliance priorities and activities
- Audits to identify and address instances of non-compliance and systemic non-compliance
- Working closely with registrars to support registrar and registrant compliance
In addition, we have established a complaints process that:
- Enhances public confidence in the .au domain by ensuring that complaints are managed in a consistent, systematic and responsive manner
- Is transparent, accessible and effective
- Is committed to continuous improvement of the administration of the .au domain through analysis, evaluation and auditing of complaints
- Reduces the likelihood of complaints escalating into disputes.
Compliance monitoring and continuous improvement
We will review the effectiveness and efficiency of our approach to compliance on an ongoing basis to identify and address improvement opportunities.