Technology

“Really unfair”: Businesses argue consultation on .au domains ignored them, auDA says it wants SME views

Emma Koehn /

Several small business owners have raised concerns that there has been a lack of fairness in the consultation process around the possible introduction of a direct registration .au domain.

Last week, SmartCompany reported businesses and those in the SEO space had been calling for asking for the self-regulatory body that oversees domain registrations in Australia, auDA, to outline a business case for the possible introduction of “.au” domains in Australia.

The organisation has been holding consultations about the possible rollout of a new Australian web address format, after the idea for a simple “.au” address structure first started gaining traction around 2015.

However, some stakeholders raised concerns that not all organisations that currently hold “.com.au” web addresses would immediately get access to their equivalent “.au” domains, or if they would perhaps have to register to claim these addresses.

AuDA has told SmartCompany that it is continuing to take submissions on exactly how the new addresses would be rolled out if they were to happen.

However, some stakeholders and business owners have expressed the view to SmartCompany that the organisation could be doing more to consult with the business community about the possible implications of the changes.

In comments posted to SmartCompany last week, business owners expressed confusion about the policy idea, saying they had never even heard of the possibility that a new domain structure could be introduced in Australia.

Beyond the costs of claiming a new domain, many raised worries that if they did transition their companies to a new website name, it would be a challenge from a branding perspective.

“Like so many others we’ve spent a lot on our .com.au branding etc. It costs a lot to do it all not just a small extra cost,” said one comment writer.

Other business owners and stakeholders have contacted SmartCompany over the past week with concerns that the way the policy idea has been discussed by auDA has been “really, really unfair”.

One said he felt as though those in the business community had been treated like “fools” during the process, observing that public hearings on the issue held by auDA haven’t included many business voices.

Others raised concerns that auDA’s 2017 Policy Review panel, which has been holding consultation on the possibility of .au domains, was supposed to have appointed a “peak business body representative” to the panel, but this was never done.

Those worried about the process say this indicates that smaller businesses will not have their voices heard about how the new web address would affect SMEs, who might have to fight it out to even claim their equivalent web address if their “com.au” site were to fall into a pool of “contested” addresses.

Consultation continuing, says auDA

When contacted by SmartCompany, an auDA spokesperson said the organisation had contacted a number of business bodies for nominations to select a business representative to sit on the policy review panel.

“Consultation with these groups continues,” the spokesperson said.

The organisation invited stakeholders, including those commenting on SmartCompany about their concerns, to make submissions to the organisation via their consultation page. 

“This a key part of the policy process and it is essential that businesses who have issues with the proposal provide feedback to us,” the spokesperson said.

Other business owners say they believe the shorter domain structure can be introduced fairly, with any comments about the possible harm this could cause to SMEs being speculation.

“There are many instances where similar changes in technology have been viewed with similar fear and trepidation, only to be unilaterally celebrated years later,” says chief operations officer at Crazy Domains, Gavin Gibson.

Gibson says he believes the concerns of stakeholders about the changes will be taken into account by auDA.

However, a number of stakeholders have told SmartCompany that while they are keen to weigh in on the changes, they are concerned small businesses do not know they are on the table in the first place.

“All this stuff is going to majorly affect people, and they simply don’t know about it,” one business owner told SmartCompany last week.

NOW READ: Four businesses share their best digital marketing advice 

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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FROM AROUND THE WEB

  • Jim Stewart

    People who think it’s “no big deal” are typically the ones collecting the money in this debate.

    • Snoopy

      Yep, they say it is only $40 from every Australian business. That is only 10 coffees a year, not much according to them!

  • Nick Young

    .com.au carries a lot of trust in Australia, with – comparatively – strict guidelines around who can and can’t register a domain ensuring the domain space isn’t flooded with junk domains. These protections aren’t looking like they’ll be in place for the .au TLD. This will lead to a flood of low-quality sites attempting to ride the trust and authority of the .com.au TLD, devaluing .au as people notice it’s lower quality compared to .com.au, and devalue existing .com.au assets as that trust fades away. If they carry across the same level of protection to .au as they currently have for .com.au then… why are they doing this? Everything just comes back to who stands to gain from this, and all fingers point directly to the registrars. This is a terrible decision for consumers, and the fact that the board at AuDA is loaded with people who don’t think this is the case shows you how close they are with the registrars. Clear house, get these chumps out of power.

  • Wayne

    It’s clearly nothing but a cash grab.

  • Snoopy

    Cash Grab!

    AUDA doesn’t give a stuff about small business, all the surveys and panels have been engineered so it is almost entirely domain industry people involved.

    They blocked Australian business from asking questions at the AGM (they made people hold up green cards to prove they are a member of AUDA)

    This is absolutely about AUDA and registrars trying to increase revenue. It is a cash grab and they kept it as quiet as possible.

  • Jim Stewart

    This will also cause issues with email confusion. You will find owners of the .com.au getting email for the .au.

    • Rohan Baker

      LOL, we have this with our .com domain being one letter different (one S instead of two) from a US based company. I’m on first name basis with the Director and half their management/engineering staff.

      I have access on a lot of what’s going on in their business as my email address is the wicket keeper address for our domain.

      • Rohan Baker

        And this does raise the valid concerns about the competition who register the .au domain then gaining access to potentially very harmful information on customers and/or supply chain.

        I’ve seen some very large emails of engineering projects to upscale their plant. 7 figures worth of capital expenditure. It would be a competitor’s dream to gain the information I’ve seen from our US domain name sibling.

        • Jim Stewart

          Yep it seems to be increasing “cyber security” threats to businesses.

  • Dennis Hall

    Unless properly implemented this could be a security nightmare – phising is already a huge issue, imagine the confusion if scam emails are being sent through “Copycat” business names carrying an “au” ?

    • Snoopy

      Agree Dennis, the .au names will look almost indentical to .com.au/.gov.au names to many people.

    • Jim Stewart

      Here’s an example from 7 years ago. Not like it’s a new phenomenon .
      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/09/09/typo_squatting_email_harvesting_risk/

      • Dennis Hall

        If we follow the logic of Auda regarding SEO implications (“We’re not in the business of search engines) their claim will be that they’re not in the business of email security. Which begs the question – what are they in the business of?

        • Jim Stewart

          We’re bringing out more on this over the next few days. I’ve been talking to a lot of people about this.

  • Investigation Team

    The days of auda.org.au and their dodgy audafoundation.org.au are numbered.

    Too much evidence has been compiled for the Government to turn a blind eye anymore….the Liberal Government and Minister Fifield could really get drawn into auda’s many years of private and public problems.

    My guess is if the Government doesn’t fix it very soon within the next few months it will be wound up once the court cases start…and they will not stop..too many people and lawyers will want justice…and money.

    Not many not for profits have $21 million in the bank from profits….a total cash grab scam for more $$$.

    New .au name space Management Required ASAP.

    It is not getting better it is getting worse.

    Government must cut off the gangrene at auda.org.au now before it spreads further and causes more damage than it has already.

    Why is the auDA Demand Class position still vacant? Auda and some on the auDA Board are unfairly trying to keep Board power against those auDA Directors who have spoken out….all who are against another .au extension.

  • Danielle

    We have never even heard of auda.org.au until now. Not happy they have been taxing us for years it seems with their own fee’s. For what?

    We are against anything that hurt’s existing investment in our .com.au company website as we have spent a lot building and promoting it.

    If they much it up we may get some other domain name extension they have no control over all together.

    How come they have never ever told us who they are, how much they make from us each year in these hidden auda.org.au fees they are charging millions of .au owners?

    What a scam… They often stay under the radar just doing enough to tick some boxes.

    I reckon a full audit of them would expose a lot of people and raise some more serious questions how long this has been going on??

    Good job for shedding some light on crooks like this. They need to be stopped.

    • Jim Stewart

      We’ve been doing some more digging. More in the next 48 hours 🙂

  • A Team

    The online scammers must be laughing all the way to the bank with the poor management of auDA doing the job.

    They have thousands of hacker and scammer websites they allow to keep stealing form Australians .

    If they bring in another .au extension it will create even more mess and hurt the reputation of the .au namespace even more.

    Have a look at how bad the management of the ,name space is and this is still happening!

    While you get rich personally what at is the cost auDA of your poor management?

    1000 Australian websites taken down after China-based criminal plot revealed!!!

    http://www.afr.com/technology/web/security/more-than-1000-australian-websites-taken-down-following-chinaled-criminal-plot-20161007-grxa2o

  • Jim Stewart

    “UNCLASSIFIED

    Good afternoon Jim,

    Thank you for your email. We have referred it to the Home Affairs media team to check with their cyber security policy area.

    With kind regards,

    Nick

    PM&C Media

    Communications Branch

    Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

    contact details deleted

    Follow @pmc_gov_au on twitter

  • Scott

    Auda.org.au and audafoudation.org.au taxing all .au domain owners $20million a year in hidden fees and charges or 1000 chinese criminal au websites stealing from Australians..

    The Commonwealth must take back control of the management of the whole .au name space quickly for confidence to be restored in the Australian online economy.

    Clean it up and lock them up if needed…

  • jimmy55

    I have several .au domains. If they are not mine, those that I have held for several years its not right.

    The public servants or quasi government people who run this should be just fired.

    SME’s we need to band together and get some real government. People in Canberra who will do what the people really want, that is to “govern” on our behalf.

    We need government to hassles at all levels, Federal, state and local government, the people in the machinery behind them who are ripping us off blind with escalating costs, poor productivity, bias, pathetic buying systems. Look at waste fee’s and god knows how many other levees go up by the CPI or more, they want us to be efficient, but dont so likewise, we should just put and shut up with the cost, and their poor offerings. Stop stealing from us.

    Like I wonder how many people the coalition really made angry signing the TPP, last week, any survey of people on any side of the political spectrum, would show people DID NOT WANT IT.

    3% pay rise for the last 5 years for government employee’s.

    Where is the baseline for the justification of this theft, when wages in the real world are not evening moving. You and I are here just to be siphoned from, with what seems diminishing returns.

  • Snoopy

    Please sign the Change petition calling on the Government to scrap the proposal

    https://www.change.org/p/malcolm-turnbull-stop-au-it-s-a-cash-grab-that-will-hurt-business

  • Grumpier

    Time to take action against the unfairness @ auDA:
    Sign the petition @ grumpier.com.au
    Enough is enough!