New Rules for Website Domain Compliance

Your website is a central part of your business. To avoid loss of use of your website, it is important to protect your website domain. Since 12 April 2021, new rules have been in place for website domains ending in .au. This includes and domains. If you licensed your .au domain before 12 April 2021, the rules do not apply to you until you transfer or renew your domain. If you created your .au domain from 12 April 2021, the new rules apply to you. Website domain compliance is important to protect your business efforts.

Presence in Australia

In order to be eligible to hold a .au domain name, you must have an Australian presence. This often includes holding an Australian trade mark if you are a foreign entity, or having an ABN or ACN if you are a local entity. The new rules stipulate that, if holding an Australian trade mark is the primary way in which you meet the Australian presence test, you must ensure that your domain matches your trade mark wording precisely. This may mean that you have to write out your business name in full in your domain, rather than use abbreviations. It can lead to long domain names. This will not apply to you if you hold an ABN or ACN or otherwise maintain an Australian presence.

New Terms that Apply to Domain Holders

There are new terms and conditions that .au domain holders must abide by in order to avoid suspension or cancellation of their domain:

  • Domain holders must warrant that their domain name is not ‘deceptively similar’ to the name of another domain
  • Domain holders must warrant that they will not use the domain license for any unlawful, illegal, or fraudulent purpose;
  • Domain holders must agree to use the domain license at their own risk;
  • Domain holders must agree to the collection, use and disclosure of certain information in association with an application for a domain; and,
  • Domain holders must have the capacity to enter into a contract. This means that children, deceased, or incapacitated people cannot hold a domain, nor can de-registered companies. However, if you lose contractual capacity, there is a 30-day period to leave opportunity for you to re-gain contractual capacity.

For minor breaches of the above terms, you may be given 30 days to remedy the matter from the date that the Registrar has determined a breach has occurred. This is an increase from the 12 days that was previously allotted. However, your domain will remain suspended during this time.

If your domain is cancelled, for example due to loss of contractual capacity after 30 days, the cancelled license cannot be transferred or renewed. Thus, it is important to review the new website domain compliance terms and avoid any grounds for cancellation of your domain.

Renting or Leasing Domains

While previously permitted, renting or leasing .au domains to third parties is now prohibited. This is to better ensure that the operator of the domain accurately reflects the owner of the domain, and to increase the transparency and dependability of .au domains. However, there is an exception to this rule for corporations, which are permitted to register domain names for use by a related body corporate. This also applies to sub-domains, which are typically used for different services associated under one corporate group. While sub-domains can be used by the corporate group, they cannot be sold, rented, or leased to third parties.

Restoring Cancelled Domains

The owner of a .au domain has two days from the date of cancellation to lodge a formal request to restore the domain name. However, this only applies if you have cancelled the domain.

Next Steps for Website Domain Compliance

Ensure your compliance with the new .au rules by updating your information with your registrar. If you are struggling to meet the Australian presence test, you may wish to transfer your domain name to an Australian company or subsidiary. Alternatively, you may apply for additional trade marks in Australia, including abbreviations, in order to reduce the length of your domain name. There are a few different approaches that you can take depending on your circumstances.

If you would like to ensure your compliance with the new .au domain rules, require assistance in applying for trademarks, transferring trademarks, or applying as a foreign corporation trading in Australia, seek the advice of an experienced business and trade mark lawyer. Speak with one of our experienced solicitors by calling us at (02) 4929 7002, emailing us or completing an enquiry form.