The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020, but the 11 month transition period meant the UK was still bound by the EU’s rules. At the end of the transition period it was known businesses and citizens of the UK would lose the right to register .EU domain names. What very few realised was that due to the terms and conditions for .fr, they would lose the right to register and hold .fr domain names as well.
Last week Afnic, the .fr registry, published a blog post by their Legal Director Marianne Georgelin reminding UK residents they are no longer eligible to register of hold .fr domain names, or indeed domains in any of the other country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) managed by Afnic and listed in the Naming Charter – namely .re (the ccTLD for the Reunion Island), .yt (Mayotte), .pm (Saint Pierre and Miquelon), .wf (Wallis and Futuna Islands) and .tf (French Southern and Antarctic Territories).
Afnic has similar eligibility rules to the .eu registry EURid. For .eu, domains can be registered by any citizen of the European Union or European Economic Area no matter where they live in the world sa well as any business with a registered office in the EU or EEA. For Afnic’s ccTLDs, individuals need to be a resident of, and businesses need to have a registered office within, the European Union, the wider European Economic Area (which additionally includes Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland.
However unlike .eu where domain names registered to UK registrants were suspended on 31 December 2020, those UK individuals and businesses that have already registered .fr domain names, and there were about 34,000 of them on 31 December, “may keep their domain names without having to change address, since they complied with the eligibility rules in force at the time they registered their domain names.” They will also be able to “renew the registration of their domain names as many times as they wish.” However when it comes to a transfer, UK residents and businesses will only be able to transfer their domain names to eligible registrants as per “the eligibility criteria of the Naming Charter.”
There is one exception – when an individual .fr registrant dies or a business is liquidated or, as Afnic explains “the original holder of which no longer has the legal capacity to carry out a voluntary transfer.” It may apply when there is a company merger or split. In these cases “Afnic proposes a forced transfer procedure known as a ‘Recover’. This procedure allows the transfer of a domain name to be forced when the ‘exiting’ holder no longer has the legal capacity to give consent to the operation. In this particular case, Afnic makes sure that a legal or commercial link is demonstrated between the exiting holder and the new holder.”
And just to clarify, when I refer to .fr, the restrictions also apply to each of the ccTLDs managed by Afnic and listed in the Naming Charter – namely .re (the ccTLD for the Reunion Island), .yt (Mayotte), .pm (Saint Pierre and Miquelon), .wf (Wallis and Futuna Islands) and .tf (French Southern and Antarctic Territories).