[DNS] Consumer education and code of conduct

[DNS] Consumer education and code of conduct

From: Bruce Tonkin <Bruce.Tonkin§melbourneit.com.au>
Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2001 11:20:15 +1100
Several people have been discussing issues relating to the conduct of some
domain name retailers, and the need for the development of a code of conduct
with appropriate public input.

My view is that:
(1) Consumer education is the first step in limiting the effectiveness of
undesirable business practices.  As Chris Disspain pointed out, all members
of the industry bear some responsibility for educating their customers.
auDA does have an important role though in being an independent "industry
self regulator" to provide consumer alerts from a credible "independent"
source.  ie we should explicitly reference the consumer alerts on the auDA
website (or ACCC) website.  I have noticed that some organisations are
issuing their own customer alerts where the wording itself can misrepresent
the issue to the consumer.  I myself would distrust any "consumer alert"
from an individual company selling domain names using its own words.
Melbourne IT actively encouraged both the ACCC and auDA to issue independent
consumer alerts.

(2) A code of conduct is important to ensure that there is a standard that
all in the industry can work towards.  A new entrant into the industry that
wishes to operate ethically needs a central place to learn about appropriate
practices in the industry.  I think auDA as the industry self regulator has
a very important role in facilitating the development of a code of conduct
with wide industry and consumer consultation.  Where possible we should
"borrow" appropriate clauses from codes such as the ACIF codes and other
industry codes, rather than re-inventing the wheel.

(3) The issue of enforcement is always a difficult one.  For example the
Trade Practices Act is a double edged sword.  It can be used to try to
prevent the business practices of a domain name reseller, but that domain
name reseller can also use the act to defend against any action.  The fact
that no action has been taken by experts in the Trade Practices Act (such as
the ACCC) implies that it is a complex legal area.   Relying on legal
enforcement is usually the course of last resort in industry regulation, and
is generally very expensive for all parties in any legal action.  It is far
better to work on prevention (ie (1) and (2) above).

It concerns me that too much emphasis has been put on the issue of
enforcement and not enough emphasis (by all in the industry) on improving
knowledge.  As Chris Disspain has stated, auDA cannot do this on its own,
unless you would all like to see a large jump in domain name prices to fund
the costs of extensive broad brushed advertising campaigns.  If auDA chooses
to use legal enforcement as its primary activity, this will result in a
large jump in domain name prices as auDA spends vast sums of money on
lawyers in the inevitable court cases that will follow.  All members of the
industry should work together to improve the industry rather than placing
all the responsibility on auDA.

Remember there is a cost in regulation, and unreasonable demands on auDA
will inevitably result in higher prices for domain names.

Bruce Tonkin

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Received on Wed Nov 21 2001 - 00:56:55 UTC

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