This is an issue that comes up fairly often. What to do when your domain has been registered under someone elses name.
Typically this is a result of either a lazy, or an unscrupulous webmaster who when creating a site registered the domain in their own name rather than that of their client. Although it’s easy to imagine why they might be tempted to do this (I’m sure it’s a very effective way of ensuring customer retention) it’s not really on though. After all, you’ve paid good money to a professional to create your website, so why should be forever hamstrung by being tied to that same developer for ever more?
Fortunately there is a way forwards that will put you back in the driving seat. Here I’ve repeated a post that I first found on Squirrel Hosting (Kudos to you Squirrel Hosting) which details what to do if your .co.uk domain is currently at the mercy of a uncooperative developer.
The odds are if you’re reading this, your domain is not in your control. The good news is – it can be.
All too often domains are purchased and for one reason or another, control of them appears to be lost. A good example of this is when a client and web designer have a falling out, the client wants to move their site but the designer refuses to give access to the domain control panel. Another example is when a hosting company fails to respond to your requests to update the domain’s ‘Registrar Tag’ (aka IPS TAG), leaving your domain apparently stuck with them.
Whilst it may appear the domain is stuck with the current registrar (the company who purchased the domain for you), it is likely it can be updated directly via nominet.
Who are nominet?
The easiest way to think about nominet is to view them as the caretakers of uk domains. They are the .uk registry. They take care of all the domains that end in a .uk, for example. .co.uk, .org.uk, .uk etc. Any .uk domain that has been registered, has passed through nominet no matter which hosting company/registrar you used. They are independant of your registrar and are a great friendly company to speak to.
A quick rundown of how a .uk domain transfer works
Unlike .com and .net (TLD’s) domains, you don’t have an authorisation code for your domain. Instead your domain uses something called an ‘Registrar Tag’ to work out which registrar has control over it. To switch your domain to another registrar, you simply change this tag to the tag of your new registrar (then follow any steps provided by the new registrar). It’s a much easier process than the one used with TLD domains and generally much quicker with transfers taking (on average) less than a day to complete.
So how does this help me get control of my domain?
Nominet have a variety of ways to help you take control of your domain name. These include a re-establish identity feature and a domain dispute procedure.
OK, so how do I get control of my domain?
Below we will guide you through the steps to try and recover your domain name.
Step 1 : Find out who the domain belongs to / who has control.
When you purchased your domain name, it should have been registered under your name/address and with your e-mail address. Unfortunately, all too often some web designers (and even registrars) don’t do this. We can use what is called a WHOIS lookup to check who owns the domain.
Load up nominet.org.uk and click the WHOIS Lookup link.
Next, enter your domain name into the search box and click the search icon.
You will now be taken to the whois results page. On this page you will see the following.
- Registrant : The name of the owner of the domain (may be hidden if domain privacy is active)
- Registrant type : The type of registration (individual or business/organisation).
- Registrant’s address : This will either show the address registered to the account OR it will display the message “The registrant is a non-trading individual who has opted to have their address omitted from the WHOIS service” if domain privacy is active.
- Registrar : The company who the domain was registered by.
- Relevant dates : The dates the domain was registered/expires and was last updated on.
- Name servers : The nameservers of the domain (usually the nameservers of the company who is hosting the domain).
Make a note of these details as we will need them later.
Step 2 : Start to regain control
So you now know who the domain is registered to (Registrant) and hopefully the address it is registered to (Registrant’s address). If you see your own details here then you are in luck and can continue below. However, if you can’t see the address or both the address and name is not your own, jump to step 4.
Step 3 : The address and/or name match the WHOIS details.
If the name and address matches your own (or at least the name), it is possible that the e-mail address associated to the domain name is also yours. If this is the case, we will be able to gain control pretty quickly. Load up nominet again and click the “Login to online services” link at the top.
Click “First time logging in or forgotten your password?”
Next, enter the e-mail address you provided when registering the domain. If your web designer registered the domain for you, try entering the e-mail address you originally provided your web designer with / the one you contacted them on. Then click ‘submit’.
You will now see the message “If you have an account with us, an email has been sent to your e-mail containing a link that will allow you to set a new password and log in to your account”.
Log into the e-mail account you entered above and check for an e-mail from nominet. In the e-mail will be a link, click this to load up the choose password page. If you do not get an e-mail from nominet (usually takes less than 10 mins to come through), try a different e-mail address. If none of them work, skip to step 4.
Enter a password of your choice in the boxes provided then click “Set Password”.
You have now created your nominet account. Click the login link.
Enter your e-mail address and password then click log in.
Once logged in, you may be asked to set up Two Factor Authentication. You can do this should you wish, otherwise click “ask me later”.
Once logged in, you will get a page listing some options. If you don’t then it is likely the domain you are trying to recover isn’t registered to this e-mail address. If so skip to step 4.
Click the ‘Domain list’ link.
You should (hopefully) see your domain name listed (again if not, skip to step 4). Click the domain name to load up its options.
You should now see the ‘domain details’ page. If your domain is currently being held against your will either via your web designer or domain registrar/host, the good news is you can switch to a different company with a few clicks. First, find the new registrar/hosting company you wish to use and create an account with them. Ask them for their ‘Registrar Tag’ (also known as an IPS TAG. if you wish to use us, ours is EXTEND). Once you have the tag and are ready to jump ship from your old registrar, click the registrar change tab.
You will now be presented with the “Registrar Change Introduction” page. Simply follow the instructions to move your domain to a new registrar and have it fully under your control. If you are moving to Squirrel Hosting, on the “Choose Registrar” section, search for and choose EXTEND.
It is worth noting that most registrars will also need you to order a domain transfer via their own website. This is usually free and allows them to associate the domain to your account with them. Our full transfer steps for .co.uk domains can be found here.
That’s it, you now have control over your domain.
Step 4a : The address and/or name match the WHOIS details but e-mail isn’t working.
If the registrant name on the WHOIS lookup matches yours but no e-mail address you try works with nominet then you can go down the “Re-establish Identity” route. The re-establish identity process is only an option to the listed registrant of a domain name. This is where you can prove to nominet you are the domain owner by providing copies of documents with your name and address on it e.g. Utility bill + passport. This will cost you £10+VAT and can be started via https://secure.nominet.org.uk/flows/reestablish-identity.html. They will then determine if you are the valid owner and update the e-mail address to one of your choice. Once they have done this, you can jump back to step 3 above and follow the steps to move your domain to a new registrar.
Step 4b : The address and/or name don’t match the WHOIS details.
If the details on the WHOIS do not match yours, then you have three options available to you.
- Try the steps mentioned in step 3 and hope that the domain was registered under your e-mail address, it is unlikely but worth a shot (plus it’s free).
- Persue legal action (which can be very expensive)
- Open a Nominet DRS (domain resolution service).
For most people, legal action is too expensive a route to go down. Luckily Nominet offer a dispute resolution service. This service involves nominet being the mediator between you and the current domain owner. They will contact the current owner and open a dialogue between you both to try and help come to an agreement on who should own the domain name.
This service is provided by nominet for free and is usually all that is needed to get your domain back under your control. If the owner of the domain doesn’t respond to nominet, you can look at taking it a step further and applying for a summary decision. This is where an independant expert will look over your case and deem if you have the right to the domain name. If they think you do, they will then allocate it to you. It does come with a price tag of £200+VAT but this is still going to be considerably less expensive than the court battle route.
You can see how the DRS works in more detail at http://www.nominet.org.uk/disputes/resolving-domain-disputes/how-it-works.
TIP : if you are going to go down this route, look over the previous cases published here. Specifically look over the ones that had the ‘decision’ result of ‘transfer’ (this is when it was sucsesful). Review how the complaint was made, what wording they used and what details they provided.
So for example, if you own the business, confirm your business LTD number and name. Do you own the trademark? Do you currently have access to the website itself to place a message on stating you are the owner? Does the address on the website match yours? etc.
It is also worth noting the below from Nominet’s website:
“You should use the DRS if:
- You have rights in a name or mark similar to the domain name
- The registration or use of the domain name took unfair advantage of your rights – making it an ‘abusive registration’; and there is no legal action going on”
Once the summary decision has been made you will be informed if you are the ‘new owner’. If you win the summary (or full decision if you choose to pay a bit extra), you can then return to step 3 above and move the domain to a new registrar.