Recently I received an email from UK2.net who I have a few domains hosted with.  I don’t host websites with them, I’ve just used them as domain registrars.

The email had some bulleted information:-

  • Two weeks before a contract is about to expire we will send you a reminder email with all the details of the service and the amount that is due

  • You can then choose a) to let it auto renew or b) to let it expire

  • If you want the service to auto renew then you don’t have to do anything!

  • All we will do is charge the credit card that you used for your initial purchase a week before the service is due to expire

  • If you want the service to expire, then simply log into your UK2 control panel, and disable the auto renew function

  • It’s as simple as that!

Now on the face of it, it seems that some of their customers have lost domains because they didn’t renew.  Probably because they hadn’t set their spam filters correctly, or relied on them to magically work, and then the reminder emails didn’t get through.  Or maybe they just forgot to renew.

And it would seem (on the face of it) that UK2 are trying to remedy that, by automatically renewing domains instead of letting them expire.

There is another angle to this of course.

I stopped using UK2.net as a domain registrar because they don’t give what I consider a proper service to their customers.

I’ll tell you exactly why I think that.

I decided over 12 months ago that it was time to upgrade to a dedicated server to host my domains on.  The hosting company I went to said that I needed to go to my domain registrar and register nameservers against the domain I wanted to assign to the server.

Fair enough, I checked it out and it yes I did need to register nameservers.

So I went to the UK2.net control panel for one of my domains that I decided to use as the home for my dedicated server, and tried to register a nameserver.  No luck there.

So I contacted their support, and they said I needed to buy their "Professional DNS Management" package at £35.00 / year.

Hmmm.  I wasn’t happy about that, something didn’t seem quite right.  But I paid up and waited for it to be activated.

When I received the email to get access to the "Professional DNS management" (their words remember), I eagerly logged onto the domain, and registered the nameservers.

That was when my trouble started.

After 7 days of seeing my nameservers flicker from one IP address to another, I decided it didn’t work.  During this time I contacted UK2.net support many times and received replies from people that clearly knew less about it than I did by this time.

I was also in touch with my server host during this time, and they were very helpful.  They suggested I go to 123-reg.co.uk who are part of Pipex as they don’t charge extra, and the registering nameservers definitely worked as they’d used them too.

Well, I already had a lot of respect for Pipex, techy friends had told me how good they were.

So I went to 123-reg, and took out a new domain with them.  I then went into the control panel, and registered the nameservers and the IP addresses.

24 hours later, everything was working perfectly, and I’d learned a lesson.

I then decded to transfer my other domains registration and hosting to 123-reg.

Woah!  Guess what?  UK2.net charge you to do that. £12.99 per domain.  What’s more you have to FAX their billing department.

Well, who uses FAX now when we all have scanners and email?

So in order to transfer MY domain to another host, I have to pay for it, and buy a fax machine or service in order to do it.  And even then, in their small print, if I don’t follow their process EXACTLY, then the transfer may not take place, but I still get charged for it.

What’s more, to get at the information I just described above is extremely difficult to say the least.  And when I did get to the page on their site, the links weren’t obvious at all, they just blended in with the rest of the text on the page so that it wasn’t easy to see that there even were any links.

No blue underlines at all. 

Sorry guys, but that sounds like severely dodgy practice to me.  It seems like deliberate barriers are being put in my way to stop me from moving.  Ring a bell with AOL at all?

So, okay, I decided I just wouldn’t register any new domains with them.  And over time as I decide to let some of the domains die quietly as they were for projects that never saw the light of day, eventually I’ll be left with 3 or 4 domains and then I’ll bite the bullet and move them to 123-reg.

That seemed like a reasonable plan until I received the communication at the top of this page.

Now, my domains won’t ever be allowed to expire unless I keep on top of them, and set them so that they won’t "auto renew".

I’ll tell you why I think this is dodgy practice and extremely unethical, and you can be the judge for yourself.

I logged onto the control panel to set all my domains to auto expire.  Guess what?  If the domain has more than 3 months to go, you can’t set it to auto expire.  Gosh, that’s conveniently been programmed in for UK2.net’s benefit.

Er, why?  Well I think it’s so that there’s a chance that I might forget to do it, and end up paying a domain registration fee for a domain I no longer want.

And if the email reminder from UK2.net happens to not reach me because of a "spam filter" (I don’t use spam filters at all, but that’s another story), then that’s not UK2.net’s fault is it?

How bloody satisfying it must be for them, laughing as they take domain registrations fees from "over 1 million domains", many ( I think I read somewhere an estimated 90%) of which are never used.  Normally these domains would gracefully expire, now they’ll be kept going by this practice of UK2.net.

So I contacted their support people again.  Here’s a transcript of yet again another very unsatisfying conversation with them.

Frank Haywood:
    I’ve just received an email to say all my domains now auto-renew
Frank Haywood:
    I don’t want that
Mat | UK2:
    Hi Frank, to do this please log your account from our home page and then click on ‘renewal calendar’, you can then turn off auto renew by viewing each domain individually.
Frank Haywood:
    I want them to auto-expire unless I renew
Frank Haywood:
    it doesn’t work
Frank Haywood:
    I can only auto expire domains coming up for expiry
Frank Haywood:
    for instance
Frank Haywood:
    *************** won’t let me change settings
Frank Haywood:
    it’s just blank
Frank Haywood:
    honestly Mat
Frank Haywood:
    I’m fed up with UK2 pulling stunts like this
Frank Haywood:
    it’s why I started using 123-32g.co.uk for my domaian registrations about 12 months ago
Frank Haywood:
    123-reg.co.uk
Frank Haywood:
    I’m on the renewal calendar now
Mat | UK2:
    Unfortunately auto renewal currently cannot be turned off until 3 months before a domain expires, i’ve already requested that this is changed as its essentially just left over from our old system
Frank Haywood:
    and when I select one from the drop down box, the renew field isn’t there
Frank Haywood:
    Unfortunately for UK2.net’s customers
Frank Haywood:
    you mean
Frank Haywood:
    is there a ombudsman for domain registrars?
Frank Haywood:
    because I’m quite frankly fed up of this
Frank Haywood:
    and I think I’m going to start blogging heavily about uk2.net’s practices
Frank Haywood:
    such as charging to move domains but then REQUIRING a FAX?!!!???
Frank Haywood:
    who uses faxes now?
Frank Haywood:
    apart from uk2.net
Frank Haywood:
    it’s jsut a sly way to stop people from moving domains isn’t it?
Frank Haywood:
    and this is just a sly way to charge people’c credit cards
Frank Haywood:
    well, just wait until the chargebacks start flooding in
Frank Haywood:
    I have another question
Frank Haywood:
    how do I remove my credit card details from your database?
Frank Haywood:
    I’m about to transfer a domain to someone, and I want to make sure my card details aren’t still associated with the domain
Mat | UK2:
    You will need to send a support ticket into our billing department, this can be done from the support section of our site.
Frank Haywood:
    does it reuqire a fax at all?
Frank Haywood:
    and is there a charge for removing my card details?
Mat | UK2:
    No fax, no charge.
Frank Haywood:
    ok thanks, I’ll do that
Frank Haywood:
    you must be really fed up of sessions like this
Frank Haywood:
    is UK2.net part of 1&1?
Mat | UK2:
    We are not affiliated with 1&1 internet
Frank Haywood:
    I just did a netstat -a and it comes up as onlinehomeserver.com
Frank Haywood:
    which is 1&1 isn’t it?
Frank Haywood:
    well, there’s a big 1&1 logo at the top, so I guess it must be
Frank Haywood:
    any last comment on that before I go?
Mat | UK2:
    We are not affiliated with 1 and 1, what precisely makes you think we are?
Mat | UK2:
    i.e. what did you run netstat on?
Frank Haywood:
    this chat session goes back to onlinehomeserver.com
Frank Haywood:
    I just opened up a dos box, and did a netstat
Frank Haywood:
    the only unusual thing there is the onlinehomeserver.com session
Mat | UK2:
    I see that too, i can only assume that its this service for which we use another company. I can only assume that they themselves use 1 and 1.
Frank Haywood:
    ah okay then, thanks
Frank Haywood:
    that’s it then, thanks for your time
Frank Haywood:
    bye
Mat | UK2:
    Ok, bye

So now I have to check each domain hosted by UK2.net that I want to expire and put them in my diary so that 3 months before I can set them to auto expire.

As I pointed out to Mat (sic), the real trouble will start when people start doing chargebacks.  I certainly wouldn’t like to be in charge of the UK2.net merchant account when their bank freezes it for investigation.

We’ll see what happens…