The story they tried to kill
the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook
are revealed for all to see!
Yesterday I received five individually addressed envelopes from a company
Internet Name Group
(ING). Each envelope contained a letter addressed to "Domain Name License Holder" and
was identical except for the occasional mention of one of my five .co.nz
The letter was a
sales-pitch for a "Pre-Registration"
service being offered by the company.
Initially I thought "well at least they didn't spam me by email" and regular
readers will know that I'm usually quite kindly disposed towards companies
that take the time and effort to show that I'm at least worth a stamp and
Within a few hours however, I started getting phone calls from other .co.nz
name-holders who had received the same letter. Some of those who were not
particularly knowledgeable in the ways of the Net were concerned because the
letter is headed "PROTECT YOUR DOMAIN NAME." They were worried that if they
didn't pay the $250 being requested that they might lose the domain they
So I rang Australian-based ING and spoke with a member of the front-line staff
who identified himself only as Gautam.
Gautam told me how ING was offering a pre-registration service for the $250 and
that this would give me a good chance of securing the .info and/or .biz version
of the .co.nz name I already had. There are no guarantees though -- you might
not get that name.
When I asked whether I got a refund if the name went to someone else I was told
"no" -- but I would get a credit for the full $250 that I could spend on other
services ING offered. What other services? Well you can renew your .co.nz
name through ING and pay just(?) $200 for two years -- that's twice the price
it costs to renew directly with Domainz
I asked Gautam how they got my contact details and he said he didn't know,
but I was told that ING was "a channel partner" of Domainz -- as if this
legitimised their mailout in some way.
Gautam then suggested that I might like to talk with Sasha, the General Manager.
I asked Sasha where he'd got his mailing list -- he said he wasn't sure but
he was certain it would have been gathered legally. He emphasized that
the company was not into unethical marketing and, as an example, didn't
use spam to flog its sales-pitch.
However, based on the evidence received to date, it appears that a significant
proportion of .co.nz domain name-holders were targeted in this mailout and
it would be reasonable to assume that the information can really only have
come from one place -- the Domainz database.
I contacted Derek Locke from Domainz who said he'd also been alerted to the
mailshot by concerned domain name-holders. When asked whether ING had obtained
their mailing list from Domainz Locke emphatically stated "we have had nothing to
do with this."
I was also told that ING had been issued with a "cease and desist" order and
that Domainz was "not happy." ING's status as a Domainz agent is now under
review and Domainz is "seeking advice" on the next course of action.
One local company which is only too aware of the effects of the ING mailshot
is 2Day.com who tell me that
they have been fielding queries from worried customers throughout the day.
When asked for comment, Peter Mott of 2Day.com summed up his feelings in one
word "bollocks." In his opinion, the mailshot was worryingly close to pro-forma
invoicing. Mott was not at all impressed by ING's actions.
Now I had originally intended to finish this item by making the point that
although the ING sales pitch is possibly rather confusing to Net-neophyte
name-holders, it would appear to be quite legal and perhaps could even be
described as a smart guerrilla marketing tactic in a competitive marketplace.
However, yesterday afternoon I emailed Mr Sudakov, requesting that he advise me
where he got his mailing list so that any suspicions it might have
been gained unethically could be allayed. I did not receive the requested
However, I did receive
an email from Mark Spektor,
who identifies himself as "Legal Counsel" for ING.
In his email he says, in respect to my conversation with Mr Sudakov, "should
you publish the contents of the conversation or any part thereof, or link
to our company in any shape or form to the above article, we will issue proceedings
seeking injunctive relief and damages."
Well I'm sorry Mr Spektor but your threats don't wash with me or my readers.
At no time was any undertaking given that the conversation was confidential
or "off the record" and to claim so retrospectively is both disingenuous and
an insult to my intelligence.
Neither does your demand that "any questions must be provided before the interview
in written form and at least 48 hours before" hold any water -- this is
a news site, not a history archive.
Clearly the original note on which I intended to finish this piece would
be rather inappropriate. Just what is it that ING are trying to hide by
threatening me with legal action for reporting THE FACTS. Just what did Mr
Sudakov say that he didn't want published?
And, perhaps most importantly of all -- exactly how did ING get ahold of the
contact names and addresses of all those .co.nz nameholders and why are they
so sensitive about disclosing the source? I believe
Derek Locke when he says there was no complicity on the part of Domainz -- but
I have been told that, as an agent, ING does have easy access to this information
from the Domainz database -- although extracting it in bulk is expressly
In the past I have found that those who complain the loudest
and threaten to sue are most likely to have something nasty hiding under
the carpet. It's my opinion that when a company is straight-up and ethical, they
don't try to kill news stories by making all sorts of groundless legal threats.
If you have a .co.nz domain name and have received a mailshot from ING then
be aware that you do NOT need to send these people any money to "PROTECT
YOUR DOMAIN NAME."
Note also that if you do choose to pre-register through ING and you don't get
the .biz or .info name you're after, you may not be able to use that $250 credit
to renew your .co.nz name -- because there would appear there's a chance
that ING may lose their agent's status with Domainz.
If you really want to pre-register a .biz or .info name, shop around before
you lay down your money and ask yourself why ING felt it necessary to try
and stop this story from being published.
As usual, feel free to have your say. What do you think
ING's letter, their marketing
tactics and their attempts to kill this story?
Additional Links Of relevance:
My apologies for the lack of a lighten-up section this week -- no time, no
space. It will be back next week though.
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