Small business warned to act urgently on domain names
Due to the poor understanding of Australia’s new abbreviated internet domain names, small business operators risk being ambushed by online rivals, prompting Ombudsman Bruce Billson to call for immediate action.
For people and companies with a confirmed link to Australia, registry agency auDA is offering .au direct domain names. On September 21, holders of active .com.au domain names will no longer have priority access, allowing rivals to register the shorter term.
The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Mr. Billson, has pleaded with small business owners to protect their brands and prevent web-name campers—impersonators—from creating websites that are identical to their own.
He has urged the independent regulator to prolong the time of exclusive access by an additional 12 months, to September 2023.
“If you want it, small business owners, I urge you to take a few minutes and a few dollars to register it or potentially face someone else grabbing it and using it to digitally ambush your business, to demand big dollars later to surrender it to you, or misuse it to masquerade as you or to help them engage in cybercrime,” he said.
“I’m not surprised so few people know about this as the public awareness campaign has been less than impactful, but I want to make sure small businesses avoid a horrible surprise when they find someone else is using or misusing the shortened version of their key digital asset being their domain name.”
Mr. Billson warned that operators risked irreparable damage if they failed to register an existing business name before the deadline.
Identity of a business
“Domain names are very much the identity of a business and critical to their success. Small businesses cannot afford to have their identity sold to someone else,” he said.
“This is like cutting a second set of keys to your front door and selling them to a rival, a stranger who tries to sell them back to you at a higher price or a criminal who uses them to rip off your customers.”
Australian Business Numbers are required for owners of domain names with the .com.au extension. Holders of the new .au domains must prove they have a legitimate connection to Australia, according to the rules.
By the end of the June quarter, more than 170,000 .au direct domain names had been registered.
“The deadline needs to be significantly extended,” Mr Billson said.
“We are not unhappy about the introduction of the .au domain but these crucial internet addresses should be available to the right people first, and they should properly be notified about the change and given reasonable time to act.”
Small businesses without an IT advisor or internal capacity, he cautioned, were especially vulnerable to the upheaval.
“The consequences of not registering your existing business name by the deadline could be commercially disastrous for a business if a rival or other business took their online name,” he said.
Mr. Greco recently got in touch with the Ombudsman to voice his worries about the lack of understanding of the move and its potentially negative effects.
“We rang 12 of our practising members around the country servicing small businesses and only one was aware of this change.” he said.
Source: Financial Review