Directnic Stole My Domain??

CJConrad

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In December, I won an Expired Auction at NameJet, with the domain sitting at DirectNic. That very day, I logged into DirectNic and changed the contact information and the Name Servers. My intention was to wait out the "transfer lock" period and to then transfer it to my GoDaddy account to keep my domains consolidated.

So, last week I logged into my DirectNic account in order to get the transfer authorization code to begin the process to move it to GoDaddy. Much to my surprise (and concern) was that the domain wasn't there! I immediately called DirectNic (well, it was the next morning, as they are not 24x7). At first, they said there was no record I ever had it. Eventually, they found the transfer & name server change it in the "communication log", so they said they would need to research it. They got back to me (via phone) hours later and told me that they now knew what happened. Apparently (per them), the prior owner had complained to ICANN about DirectNic not "cooperating" with his transfer of domains to GoDaddy so, hours before the auction ended, DirectNic "manually moved" a bunch of domains to GoDaddy -- the list included the one I was about to win at auction. Then, at some point later (after I had already had confirmation emails from them of the name server and contact changes), they found that my account had a "phantom domain" in it and they summarily just removed it -- no notification, no investigation, no refund, nothing. They basically blamed NameJet for allowing the auction to finish (not sure of the rationale of that) and told me that I would need to go to NameJet to try to get my money back.

Now, I didn't pay very much for that domain (which is a mortgage-themed in a major market), but it has an Estibot value of $4K. I don't want to lose the domain and I don't feel it fair to have to be the one to chase down the resolution.

Can DirectNic do what they did? If I was able to change the Contact & Name Servers (I only have their confirmation emails to show I did this -- I did not go to a public WHOIS server to confirm), doesn't that mean that I had control? And, if I did have control, how can they just transfer it to someone else without any notice or involvement from me whatsoever? Should I file a complaint with ICANN?

Thanks in advance for any advice or insights ...
 

Jack Gordon

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Your headline is misleading. DirectNic did not steal your domain.

They either transferred it out to someone else by mistake, or you never actually owned it and had no rights to the control of it.

Life isn't fair, but this is your problem to resolve. Most likely, that resolution will be limited to Namejet accepting responsibility for the acquisition fee you paid them, and that will be the end of it.
 

TheLegendaryJP

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Sorry to hear this but just imagine if true the hell the owner of the name had to got through with DN themselves.

As far as NJ goes, they would have to be notified in time to stop the auction, blaming them is moot.
 

CJConrad

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Hi Jack,
Thanks for the quick response. I placed the question marks in the headline because I don't really know who is responsible. Yes, I don't think they "stole" it in the traditional sense (e.g. to take something of value from me to gain material benefit for themselves), but "stole" in the sense that they took something from me in which they had no right. And to not communicate with me in the process is, at minimum, extremely unprofessional. Perhaps it was an error on their part, in which case they need to fix it or otherwise accept responsibility to make it right w.r.t. me.

I didn't include my subsequent conversation with NameJet, but they have completely distanced themselves from this, saying that it is technically *impossible* for them to conclude the auction without the domain truly now belonging to the winner. They completely blame DirectNic and refuse to participate in a three-way call to get all the facts on the table. They will not discuss it further thus far, though a ticket has been opened.

So, I am currently left with each side completely blaming the other, telling me that they take no responsibility, and refusing any further assistance. They both win and I am out the auction costs.

If I've understood your post correctly, you seem to say that if they transferred it out by mistake, the resolution will be a refund of my auction fee? Perhaps life isn't fair, but that absolutely does not seem right nor just nor even legal. Is it possible to get confirmation of contact and name server changes for a domain I don't own (as I indeed did receive)? If it *was* mine at the time they transferred it (whether I'd owned it for hours or days) out to anyone, prior owner or not, then they "sold" (or gave) something that was not theirs to give. That's not legal in any life scenario that I can think of.

Thank you ...
 

Jack Gordon

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That further clarification does add some complexity.

I think maybe, if it is important for you to pursue this, that a consultation with a domain attorney would be in order.

Just be aware that if you go that route, it is likely you will have to invest more money into this without knowing how it will turn out.

If you just want to get out of this with a Namejet refund, you could threaten a chargeback. That will probably get their attention. But be prepared for the possibility that it will burn your relationship with them over that.
 

CJConrad

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Hi JP, true that if the only way it went to auction to begin with is because the owner was trying to move a bulk list of domains to GD and DirectNic wasn't cooperating properly, such that s/he went to ICANN ... then the domain probably should never have been sent to auction to begin with. In that case, it wasn't DirectNic's right to give it to auction nor NameJet's right to sell it, etc. So, it should belong to the original owner, but my money should be promptly and apologetically refunded.

I do appreciate observations, opinions, insights, recommendations. Thanks!!
 

TheLegendaryJP

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I agree fully with you, start by doing a request for refund and if no help a charge back.
 

CJConrad

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Hi Jack, I've bought 5 domains from NameJet and I really like their company. This is my first experience with them that has "gone bad", but I really don't know that it is their fault at all. But, if they did get money from me for a domain that they couldn't deliver, they should be refunding me (and they can then go after DirectNic for whatever money they passed on to them or other losses resulting from this). But, of course, their (current) position is that they DID deliver the domain and that ended our relationship wrt this domain. Anything after that is DirectNic's responsibility.

I don't want to sour my relationship (E.g. get my account dropped) with NameJet, but I don't want to eat the money, either. Decision, decisions ...

I think I'll make one more call to DirectNic to understand the timings of all of this, then to NameJet if necessary. I would *really* like a three-way call -- DirectNic was open to that, NameJet was not.

Thanks again for your insights!
 

Jack Gordon

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All the more reason to consider letting an attorney navigate this for you.

Any decent attorney will probably already have relationships with the players and will be your best chance if there is any hope to resolve things quickly and amicably.
 

CJConrad

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I thought I'd fill everyone in on the outcome. I've been back & forth with DirectNic and NameJet. While the agents at both places were professional and helpful, neither was willing to take responsibility, until ...

I received an email from NameJet (in response to my ticket), saying that the last WHOIS update was 20 Dec and, as the auction had been 18 Dec, that somehow cleared them in the matter (I don't understand the logic of that alone). I called them to see if they had a record of every domain change from the 18th thru the 20th, to give insights to the event details (e.g. does it show the Contact change and Name Server change I did at DirectNic minutes after the auction close). They told me they don't have such details, but that they just kept referring to the WHOIS record at (some specific site). As the "last update" they were seeing was different than I was seeing at a different WHOIS, they explained that the WHOIS servers are caching, so we'd need to go to the source. So, he suggested we both go to the whois.godaddy.com (where the domain had been moved from DirectNic the day of the auction). We both went there, at the same time, and guess what? My WHOIS page had a different "Updated" date than did his! In fact, his showed the "Updated" being only 40 minutes prior, while mine showed it as Dec 18th, but many hours prior to the end of the auction. He asked me to screen capture mine before doing any refresh that might lose that information. I did and immediately posted it to the ticket.

The next day (an hour ago), the ticket was updated saying that I would be refunded the auction cost. Note that, on my first and second contact with NameJet, they were ADAMANT that it was IMPOSSIBLE for them to close an auction on a domain that had already been moved or otherwise couldn't be delivered. And that alone was their basis for not taking any action nor for exploring the possibilities with DirectNic. Obviously, that initial take was wrong.

Lessons learned from my side:
  1. After an auction, immediately go to the registrar and change the contact and Name Servers (which I did), but also go to WHOIS to confirm that the changes went beyond the registrar's front-end (which I did not do) -- probably take a screen shot of the WHOIS as evidence.
  2. Seek advice (I appreciate the advice on this thread)
  3. Be persistent
I'd rather have had the domain (that's why I bought it), but at least I will be getting a refund.
 
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