Dot eu domain names in a no deal Brexit - What's the plan?

Europe

Introduction

EURid is the private, independent, not for profit organisation that has operated the .eu TLD since 2003. Last year EURid reported the EU Commission’s Notice to Stakeholders which announced that in the event of a no deal Brexit, UK individuals and businesses would no longer be able to register or renew their .eu domain name registrations (i.e. where the country code is GB for Great Britain or GI for Gibraltar). The Notice stated that in the absence of updated EU contact details replacing those in the UK, the Registrar would be permitted to revoke the .eu domain of its own volition. Further, after a no deal Brexit, parties would be stripped of their right to challenge speculative or abusive .eu domain registrations on the basis of UK rights (see our earlier Law Now article here).

Impact on .eu Registrants

As we noted in April, more than 300,000 .eu domains are registered to UK registrants, estimated to be a tenth of the register. Unless these registrants can provide EU contact addresses to replace their UK contact details, for example, where their business structure allows them to nominate an EU based business as their EU establishment, these domains are at risk of revocation. That revocation may be without notice. What is more surprising, is that EURid itself does not appear to have been consulted regarding the Commission’s Notice or approach.

What will happen if there is no deal?

It was thought there would be a hard cut-off without notification, but on 24 January 2019 EURid published its action plans (available here), both in the event of a deal and also a no deal Brexit. This followed discussions with the Commission. If you are a UK resident individual or UK domiciled business and own an eu. TLD, this is what to expect in a no deal scenario:

  • on or shortly after midnight on 23 March 2019 you will be notified by email by EURid that the data registered for your .eu domain will no longer be compliant from 30 March 2019;
  • on or shortly after midnight on 30 March 2019 EURid will contact you again by email requiring that you update the contact data to refer to: (i) an EU resident individual: (ii) an EU domiciled business; or (iii) an EU establishment of a UK business, as appropriate;
  • you will have two months, that is until midnight on 30 May 2019, to provide the updated contact details or EURid will note the  domain registration as withdrawn;
  • you will not be permitted to register a new .eu domain from midnight on 30 March 2019; and
  • you will have one year from Brexit to reactivate a .eu domain on provision of new eligible contact details in the EU or EURid will revoke the registration and it will become available for general registration.

What will happen if there is a deal?

Should the UK leave the EU following a planned transitional period on 31 December 2020 and there is no specific provision for .eu domain registrations or a later date within the agreement, EURid will adopt a similar notification, withdrawal and revocation procedure to that outlined above, with the following timeline

  • initial notification by 23 December 2020;
  • second notification by 1 January 2021;
  • registration treated as withdrawn from 2 March 2021; and
  • registration revoked from 1 January 2022

What should you do?

  • Continue to monitor the EURid site to keep up to date – the site currently contains a disclaimer that the action plans may change as the Brexit process unfolds.
  • Assess the options you have in the EU. If you have a suitable EU establishment, transfer your .eu domain to that entity before 29 March 2019 for certainty and to avoid any disruption or delays caused by Brexit.
  • If you do not have EU options, consider redirection to an alternative domain before 29 March 2019.

What about the New Regulations?

Late last year EURid confirmed that the European Parliament, Counsel and Commission had agreed new rules to modernise the .eu framework to allow more flexibility to respond to market and technological changes. One such flexibility, is provision for an EU national to hold an .eu registration wherever they reside. This will assist EU nationals residing in the UK, but there will be a window of disruption from 30 May 2019 until that provision comes into force.  Clearly this is of little comfort to businesses residing in the UK. The proposal for the new regulation can be found here