In today's digital world, a domain name licence is a business' online identity. It is how customers, suppliers or distributors and the general public find you, learn about you and your services and, oftentimes, determine if they wish to do business with you. It is a vital business asset.
Millions of Australian businesses have registered a .au domain name licence. Yet what many businesses do not realise is that this digital business asset – the domain name licence – is not automatically transferred when a business is sold, transferred or changes hands.
If I buy a business, do I get the domain name?
Buying a business does not mean the domain name licence is automatically transferred to the new owner.
Often businesses change owners but the transfer of the domain name licence to the new entity is forgotten and can cause disruption to website or email services. Rectifying the issue can be particularly difficult if the original company that held the domain licence becomes deregistered.
Much like transferring the registration of a car, it is a joint responsibility for both parties to approve the domain name licence transfer – otherwise the new business owner is at risk of losing the domain name.
Why is it important?
Holding a com.au or net.au domain name licence means you are registered in Australia’s most trusted and secure commercial namespaces.
Research shows that consumers identify .au as Australian websites, and they are actively seeking to engage with local businesses.
Customers build up good faith with brands over time. Having to change a domain name licence, because it was not correctly transferred at the time of sale/purchase, means you could risk you losing revenue that had previously been generated via your domain name.
It could also impact your search engine ranking if your website is down or removed and/or an existing link becomes broken.
More importantly, if your domain name "drops", meaning it is deleted from the registry, a competitor may be able to register it. This would mean that traffic that would have come to your website is directed away from your business and email addresses and be directed to the new registrant of the domain name.
When you buy a business, ensuring the domain name licence is properly transferred and you are eligible to hold it can prevent these probems occurring.
What to do if you buy or sell a business with a domain name
When you buy a business remember to contact your preferred registrar to make sure the domain name licence is transferred to you.
If your domain name licence is being transferred as part of a contract or agreement – for example, as part of the sale of a business – you must transfer the licence within 28 days of the contract or agreement being entered into, unless the agreement specifies otherwise.
If you need the contact details of the existing registrar that is holding the domain, you can find them using the WHOIS lookup tool.
When you are selling a business, to transfer your .au domain name licence to another registrant you must be eligible to hold the licence, as does the person you are transferring it to.
You can initiate a transfer, referred to as a ‘change of registrant’, via your registrar’s website. You will need to provide your domain’s authorisation code to approve the transfer. You may also need to pay a ‘change or registrant’ fee, which is set by the registrar.
You can retrieve the authorisation code by going to pw.auda.org.au. The code will be sent to the existing registrants contact email, so make sure your details are up to date.
The person to whom the name is being transferred will enter into a new licence agreement and will need to pay the applicable licence fee. A new licence period will start. Remaining time in a licence period does not transfer to the new registrant.
When a transfer between registrants is initiated, the registrar must make sure both the original and new registrants are eligible to hold the licence and perform the transfer within two calendar days of the request.
What about staff changes?
It is important to keep your contact details up to date.
If there are issues with your domain name licence, such as complaints, renewal notices or eligibility queries, your registrar will contact you via the details registered with your domain. If you cannot be contacted, your domain name may be deleted.
You can check the details you have provided by going to the WHOIS lookup tool.
If a staff member at your business has registered a domain using an email account only they can access, or that becomes deactivated when they leave your organisation, important emails may be missed, including invoices, renewal notices or complaints relating to the domain name.
Consider using email accounts that will remain active even if staff move on, e.g. itdomains@[businessname].net.au. It is important to ensure these accounts are secure and monitored regularly.
If you are buying, selling or registering a business, contact your registrar to find out more about transferring domain name licences.