Australian regulator warns about questionable trade mark renewals, including domain name renewals

In a warning to Australian trademark holders about unsolicited letters that may appear to be trade mark renewal notices, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has included letters purporting to be domain name registration renewals as something businesses should be wary of.Letters that look like domain name registration renewals are usually touting for new customers, and rely on limited knowledge of the domain name systems.”It is all too easy for the inexperienced not to notice or understand the subtle difference between a ‘.com’ or ‘.com.au’ domain name,” ACCC deputy chair Michael Schaper said. “Once the money is paid the business becomes the owner of a new domain and has not renewed their existing one.”The ACCC has taken court action against a number of traders involved in false billing activity including Australialink Pty Ltd and Business Pages Pty Ltd for conduct associated with their respective online directories and Domain Names Australia Pty Ltd for domain name renewals.The ACCC gives a few simple steps to help avoid signing up to unnecessary and potentially costly services:

  • don’t assume that any ‘renewal’ notice is from your original supplier. You may receive many such offers from operators competing for your business or they could be scammers. Check all the details
  • ensure that only authorised employees are responsible for payments and they should have ready access to important dates and suppliers. Update them on any scam or unsolicited service that may be targeting businesses
  • if the service is something that you would like, shop around to see what deals are available and who are the most reliable suppliers
  • if you receive letters of demand you may need to get legal advice to understand your rights
  • alert your industry association or local business advisor about any offers that you think may be untoward or misleading. They may be able to warn others in your network.

“If you have any doubts about trademarks or offers of a legal nature it pays to get independent advice,” advises Dr Schaper.For Australian businesses, the ACCC suggests businesses check out IP Australia or SCAMwatch for more information.The IP Australia website (www.ipaustralia.gov.au) provides details on trade mark issues as well as warnings about recent unsolicited mailouts associated with trademarks and associated traders.SCAMwatch also has general information on business scams, including those associated with false billing at www.scamwatch.gov.au.More information on the ACCC can be found at www.accc.gov.au.

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