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Court Scrutiny For Misleading Invoices

by Adam Gifford

A Perth-based company accused of sending unsolicited invoices to New Zealand internet name owners is before the Australian Federal Court for undertaking similar activities across the Tasman.

Australian domain names administrator auDA has asked the court to rule that the mailouts by Domain Names Australia and its director, Chesley Rafferty, were misleading or deceptive and in breach of the Trade Practices Act.

It wants the court to order Rafferty to refund money to anyone who was taken in by the letter and to issue a permanent injunction against further such mailouts.

This month Rafferty, trading as Domain Names NZ, sent out letters to tens of thousands of owners of .co.nz names, inviting them to buy similar names in the .net.nz space for 37 for two years, about four times the cheapest rate.

The format of the letter meant many people thought it was a renewal invoice for their existing name.

At the time, Rafferty told the Herald he was trying "to make an honest dollar in a proactive fashion" and if he had done anything wrong "they [auDA] would have taken action".

New Zealand domain names commissioner Debbie Monaghan said she was still working with the Commerce Commission to assess what action could be taken here against Rafferty. "It is a bit harder in New Zealand because he has no presence here, but we are still working on it," Monaghan said.

About 300 replies to the Domain Names NZ letter had been received at the serviced office Rafferty was using as a mail drop, and these were returned to the senders with a warning about the scam.

Monaghan did not know how many people might have gone direct to the Domain Names NZ website and paid online, but no market increase in .net.nz registrations has been noticed by the registry.


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