UK: Registering Domain Names and Avoiding Common Pitfalls

Last Updated: 10 June 2003
Article by Kannan Arunasalam

Registering domain names seems quick and easy - but there are some potential pitfalls which can later cause considerable inconvenience and expense.

A cautionary tale...

A client company orally instructed an agent to set up its website, including registration of domain names and hosting arrangements. The agent registered a key domain name with one registrar, paying a two-year registration fee; this registrar also hosted the website. The registration was initially in the name of the agent, using its contact details, but the registration was subsequently transferred to the company - but without changing the contact details. The hosting arrangements were separately transferred to another internet service provider (ISP) - but the domain name was left with the original registrar.

The client company did not realise when the two-year period expired as it did not receive any of the registrar's reminders. Consequently the Ł60 domain name renewal fee was not paid, the registration lapsed and the domain name was promptly re-registered by an individual based in the Far East. The client company had not registered a trade mark incorporating the domain name and in the particular circumstances a passing off claim could not be brought. The client was forced to pay the new registrant a sum for recovering its domain name.

Luckily in this case, the figure involved was not enormous, but the sums demanded can be extremely high, particularly if the potential case against the new registrant is not that strong and he is well informed about the costs for the old registrant of resorting to litigation.

Lessons to be learned

  • Ownership of the domain name

It is important that the domain name is registered in the correct name of the intended owner. Difficulties may arise if domain names are registered in the name of the employee who is responsible for the website. If the employee subsequently leaves with a grievance, the company may face significant costs to recover the domain name. A well informed ex-employee may realise that the cost of bringing proceedings or activating dispute resolution procedures could be significant, out-weighing a well-pitched offer. The company may have no commercial choice but reluctantly to pay the price offered rather than incurring potentially irrecoverable legal costs. Even if the employee leaves on good terms, there may be logistical difficulties in arranging a transfer to the company eg on a sale of the company or its business.

Similar problems may arise if the domain name is registered in the name of the website designer or another agent engaged by the company. All intellectual property created by the designer should be owned by the company - the domain name should be registered in the company's name and other intellectual property should be transferred to the company by a short written assignment signed by the designer.

The full name of any corporate owner (including Limited or Plc) should be used, to avoid confusion with other group companies or divisions.

  • Ensure administrative, technical and billing contacts are correct and updated regularly

The administrative contact is the person to whom issues regarding any modifications to the domain name should be addressed. The billing contact is the person to whom invoices and any reminder notices are sent.

The technical contact is the entity hosting the website using the domain name.

A registrar (also called the registration agent by Nominet) is the organisation with which a domain name is registered, which may be an ISP, a domain name reseller or just a company that specialises in registering domain names. The registrar will usually send reminder notice(s) to registrants (owners of domain names for the period of registration) warning that a particular domain name is nearing the end of its registration period. These reminders are usually sent by email to the billing contact; the registrar may also send a letter to any address specified.

Consider whether it is better to specify a named individual or a title/general email address. If sent to an individual who has left or is otherwise not there to check emails, the company may not be aware when the domain name needs renewal. If sent to a title/general email address, ensure that this inbox is checked regularly.

If you have a number of domain names, it is probably sensible to have the same contacts responsible for all domain names.

You can check contact details for your domain names with your registrars or by carrying out a ‘WHOIS’ search on one of the many websites which provide this search facility eg: (covering all top level domains (TLDs) and country level domain names eg; or (for information on TLDs only ie aero, .arpa, .biz, .com, .coop, .edu, .info, .int, .museum, .net, and .org)

  • Make a diary note of renewal dates

Although the registrar will usually send reminder notices to the registrant about renewal dates, it is unlikely to be obliged to do so under its terms and conditions. Some registrars may seek to exclude liability for non-renewal by the registrant. Some registrars also cap their liability, at a figure which may be insufficient to cover the costs of recovering a domain name even if the owner can establish liability.

  • Consider whether to register the domain name for periods longer than the minimum

If the domain name is important to your business, paying a fee for say 6 years or more may be sensible and your registrar may also offer a discount for registering names for longer periods. Some registrars offer initial periods of registration of up to 10 years.

  • Consider paying renewal notices by direct debit to ensure automatic payment
  • Ensure arrangements with agents are clear and in writing

In our cautionary tale, there was no written record of the arrangements between the company and its agent. The company assumed that the new registrar which took over the hosting arrangements would also deal with the domain name but did not make this clear to the agent, and it was not clear whether the agent or the company was responsible for ensuring that the renewal fees were paid. When the domain name lapsed, a dispute arose as to the scope of the agent's obligations and its liability to reimburse the company for costs incurred in recovering the domain name.

  • Changing registrars

It is probably simplest to have all domain names in your portfolio registered with one ISP registrar. When an existing domain name is transferred from one owner to another, it may also be appropriate to change the registrar. The procedure for doing this varies according to the registrar(s) involved. The terms and conditions of many registrars prohibit any change of registrar within a certain period following registration or transfer to them, in which case the new owner needs to make a diary note to ensure that the registrar is changed as soon as this is possible.

The content of this article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on in that way. Specific advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.





To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.