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Is this domain registrar being deceptive?

Mark Kawabe - Monday, November 20, 2017

Notice from iDNS Canada for domain renewalI think every domain owner in Canada must have received at least one of these notices from iDNS Canada. We manage a lot of domains so we get dozens of them every year. For the average domain owner who doesn't see these every day, let me tell you what they are.

First off, if you want to read along, click on the image to the right so you can see a larger version in a new window.

At first glance, when you read the headline, it looks like a domain name expiration notice. That's enough to scare a lot of people. Nobody wants their domain to expire. Now the reader is afraid. This is good for iDNS Canada and bad for the reader. When we get scared, rational thoughts are suppressed and our "fight or flight" mode is activated.

What most people do now is skim for pertinent details. The big boxes are a natural draw to the eye. Seeing your domain name in big bold letters, flagged for expiry, reinforces the fear. The date below (December 25, 2017) creates a sense of urgency. This letter is designed to create fear and solicit action.

If you asked domain owners to name their registrar, I'm betting a good number of them couldn't do it. So is iDNS Canada. Knowing this basic bit of information about your domain is key to not falling for this . . . this what?

Scam or Solicitation?

I did a quick Google search for "iDNS Canada" and the top 10 search results say these notices from iDNS are a scam. I disagree. What does scam mean? It's defined as "a dishonest scheme; a fraud". By that definition, iDNS isn't scamming anyone. I don't like what they're doing, but they're not lying or being dishonest.

The Truth Revealed by Reading

We're all busy, and stuff like this can sometimes fly under the bullshit radar. However, reading the first paragraph of this letter tells you right away what the letter is about. It's a solicitation.

"As a courtesy to domain name holders, we are sending you this notification of the domain name registration that is due to expire in the next few months. When you switch today to Internet Domain Name Services, you can take advantage of our best savings. Your registration for . . . Act today!"

The bold is my own emphasis, but it's clear that this is a soliciation. The third paragraph makes things even more clear.

"Privatization of Domain Registrations and Renewals now allows the consumer the choice of Registrars when initially registering and also when renewing a domain name. Domain name holders are not obligated to renew their domain name with their current Registrar or with Internet Domain Name Services. Review our prices and decide for yourself. You are under no obligation to pay the amounts stated below, unless you accept this offer. This notice is not a bill, it is rather an easy means of payment should you decide to switch your domain name registration to Internet Domain Name Services."

The bolding is part of the original text.

It would be easy to "go with the flow" and call this letter from iDNS Canada a scam. However, it's not. There's nothing untrue in this letter. Why it feels like a scam is because of how it makes people FEEL. They FEEL like it's a notice from their registrar telling them their domain name is going to expire soon. The layout elicits the "fight or flight" response and the result is that a lot of people transfer their domain registrations to Internet Domain Name Services. It's not a scam. It's not a bait-and-switch. There's nothing illegal about what they're doing.

And, that sucks, because it would be better if there were something illegal going on. That way, the police could shut them down. Instead, domain owners will receive this solicitation every year until they no longer have domains. Hopefully, after reading this article, you'll feel empowered to simply recycle notices you get from iDNS Canada in future.

If you found value in this article, please share it widely! If everyone does that, these solicitations won't work. That will hurt Internet Domain Name Services more than anything else you can do.

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