A Domain Registrar Goes Out Of Business, Now What (Real Example)?
You probably chose a smaller registrar because it was cheaper. Now you are worried about what happens if that registrar goes out of business. I will explain how the process works based on official sites and reputable resources. I will also provide you with a real-life example and what happened in that case.
So, what happens if a domain registrar goes out of business? A new registrar will get the administration of those domains. Regulatory bodies such as ICANN can decide who will be the new registrar if no other solution is viable. In any case you are still the owner of the domains and they are not deleted.
Let’s see what should be your moves if you find out that a domain registrar is about to close or it is already bankrupted.
1.) If the site is still operational, you should try to transfer the domain name to another registrar. Visit your domain management dashboard, unlock the domain, and disable the whois protection (if you have one). Try to find something that we call authorization or EPP Code. If you can’t find it call or email the support.
Use that authorization code in your new registrar to finish the transfer. The transfer will not be instant. It might take up to 7 days and you should also check your email inbox for any additional verification emails.
The biggest chance is that their site would be still functional and you would be able to transfer your domains.
2.) If the registrar is unresponsive or their site doesn’t work properly then you can try to contact ICANN. ICANN is a non-profit organization that oversees registrars and gives them permission to sell domains. Use that form to complain about your transfer: Form Icann
Before you complete that form you should read these instructions: Instructions File
If you have privacy enabled, you need to deactivate it. Since ICANN will use the whois database to evaluate if you are the real owner of the domain. For those that don’t know when you register a domain name you provide some personal details such as Full Name, Address, Email, and phone. All those details are stored in the whois database.
If you can’t cancel the privacy, try to find as many proofs as possible that you actually own the domain. You should find your initial payment receipt (you should search in your email inbox) and any additional detail that proves you are not a scammer that wants to steal the domain.
What Happens If A Domain Reseller Bankrupts?
In that case things are much easier. A domain reseller offers registration services through a domain registrar. So, you can find your original domain registrar by checking on a whois database such as whois.com. If the reseller is unresponsive send an email to them. In the worst-case scenario, you will create an account with them and you will manage the domain from their interface.
So, let’s see now a real story when a well-known registrar bankrupted and what actually happened with the domain name owners.
Registerfly – A Real Bankrupt Story
RegisterFly was a big domain registrar with around 2 million domain names and 900,000 customers. The company founded in 2000 and stopped its operation in 2007. Initially was a reseller but at some point it became accredited domain registrar by ICANN.
During that time, there were some serious complaints about the company. The things went completely wrong when the one co-owner filed suit against the other for misused company funds. The company itself faced a lawsuit too because they were blamed that they defrauded some of their customers for a long time.
At some point there was even a second version of RegisterFly online (with .net extension) from the second co-owner! In March 2007 ICANN informed Registerfly that they will remove them from the status of ICANN-Accredited Registrar. That means they couldn’t longer sell domain names to their clients.
Fortunately, the story had a good ending for the domain name owners unless they had prepaid for some other services (where they lost their money forever). On May 29 after an agreement between Godaddy, ICANN, and Registryfly 850,000 domains were transferred automatically to Godaddy.
This story affected a lot the domain name industry. After that incident, ICANN tied its prerequisites for the new domain name registrars.
So what are the key lessons we learn from this story? Let’s summarize the most important of them:
1.) Domain Registrars are just private companies that can go bankrupt at any time. The company might be successful but the management can ruin quickly that success.
2.) When you choose a domain registrar don’t rely only on the cheap prices. Check how much time they are in business, their background, and especially the unbiased reviews online!
3.) If you see that things go wrong with your current registrar you can always transfer your domain elsewhere. It is your right and no one can deny it unless you just registered or transferred the domain within the last 60 days.
4.) Whois databases reveal who is the real owner of a domain name. You should add accurate info there so in difficult situations you can easily prove that you are the legitimate owner. Be aware that if domain privacy is enabled others can’t cross-check if you are actually the domain name owner.
5.) Keep always a copy of your payments for registration or a renewal of a domain name.
6.) Don’t rely only on your username and password since those sooner or later will get compromised. Try to change your password every 6 months but most importantly use a 2-factor authenticator.
7.) Contact with ICANN as the last solution if you can’t transfer your domain name. ICANN encourages you to solve your differences directly with your registrar but you can still reach them if you have viable reasons.
8.) Even if your domain registrar bankrupts, your domains still belong to you. In the worst-case scenario they will automatically transfer to a new domain registrar.
Choose a reputable domain registrar and if you follow the previous advices you should be ok. I hope that the post was helpful to you, i appreciate it if you share it on social media!