Does it do what it says on the box? The audit explained

Posted by auDA Complaints Team on 3 December 2014

The .au domain space is a trusted, respected and safe place for Australian Internet users. Part of our role at auDA is to keep it that way. 

To achieve that we have a small but perfectly formed team, who respond and investigate complaints about possible breaches of .au policies. Eligibility complaints - you can read the policy here - are just one type of complaint auDA assesses. Our policies state that we conduct audits from time to time. Audits are prompted by increased complaint levels, market place changes and the auDA remit to safeguard the .au domain space for the benefit of all Internet users in Australia. 

So why audit Surely they’re the nice guys of the domain name space? 

Let’s start by explaining what the space is. Simply put, it’s for non-commercial organisations. By that we mean the non-profit sector; charities, foundations, clubs or even a political party.  

The last three years has seen an increase in the number of complaints received about ineligible (often commercial) entities registering in this space.  In 2011 we investigated 7 cases about ineligible registrations and by 2013 this had risen sharply to 31 separate investigations. 

The numbers may seem small but consider this: some of those cases involved multiple domain names.  By multiple domain names I don’t just mean two or three.  It can mean 10 or 20 or more. It all adds up. This increase has prompted the audit.  

We are reviewing all domains registered over the last five years, approximately 27,444 domain names in total. It isn’t a selective process, it is a thorough and unbiased review, an audit in the truest sense of the word. It’s no mean feat, but the objective is simple enough: to check that registered domain names comply with the eligibility rules. Those rules are:

1.      To be eligible in the 2LD, registrants must be non-commercial organisations as follows: 

a) an association incorporated in any Australian State or Territory; or

b) a political party registered with the Australian Electoral Commission; or

c) a trade union or other organisation registered under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009; or

d) a sporting or special interest club operating in Australia; or

e) a charity operating in Australia, as defined in the registrant’s constitution or other documents of incorporation; or

f) a non-profit organisation operating in Australia, as defined in the registrant’s constitution or other documents of incorporation. 

To read a more detailed outline about the requirements you can go to Schedule F here 

In conducting this audit, we have found some of the domain name registration details to be incomplete or unclear.  Some have been found to have been registered to an incorrect or non-existent entity.  Many have been found to be registered to commercial organisations or individuals. All of the domain name registrations where the eligibility is non-compliant or not clear are subject to further investigation.

We know that mistakes happen, and auDA will always give registrants a reasonable opportunity to correct their registrant details if they can.  It’s critical that a request from auDA or a registrar to verify eligibility is not ignored.  If your organisation meets the eligible entity criteria, let your registrar know this so it can be corrected. Failing to do this will result in the domain name being placed into the policy delete status. 

At the end of the day though, there will be cases where the registrant simply cannot demonstrate that they meet the eligible entity criteria, and their domain name will be deleted.

Our work continues, it’s a big job, but we are determined to maintain a safe, trusted place on the Internet in Australia.  It’s for the benefit of all Australian Internet users. There will be a blog update with final statistics, once the audit is complete.

If you want to know more, our website is full of useful information about the structure of the .au space . If you are the sort of person who likes to learn through reading about it you can go here and if you prefer a visual explanation take a look at our animated video series here. If you really want to take a more active part, you can become a member of auDA. Membership is open to all stakeholders in the Australian domain name space.