ICA introduces domain broker code of conduct

Voluntary code of conduct is a good first step to improving the domain broker ecosystem.

A notebook with the words "code of conduct" and a magnifying glass and pen

The Internet Commerce Association (ICA), a trade association for domain investors and related businesses, has published its voluntary broker code of conduct.

Domain brokers met at the ICA meeting in Las Vegas in January to discuss and create the code of conduct. At this time, it’s completely voluntary for brokers who are ICA members. Those who agree to adhere to the code will get a designation on the ICA website.

Currently, ICA is not getting involved in disputes with domain brokers regarding the code.

The code of conduct is a step in the right direction. While many domain brokers have upstanding ethics, others give the industry a bad name. Here are some scenarios that I’ve heard happen repeatedly:

  • Domain Broker A advertises its client’s domain for sale. Domain Broker B says it has a buyer when it doesn’t, then it shops the domain to its client list (and sometimes at a higher price).
  • A domain broker plays both sides of the transaction, charging the buyer a different price than the seller is told the domain sold for.
  • A domain broker claims that a client is looking for a particular type of domain and asks people to submit their names. The broker then tells the domain owners that the buyer isn’t interested in their name, but the broker would like to represent the domain. There isn’t really a buyer; it’s just an attempt to get more domains under an exclusive contract.
  • A domain broker tries to sell a domain it doesn’t own without making it clear to the prospect that it isn’t representing the domain owner. This sometimes comes up in UDRP cases in which the Complainant claims that the domain owner’s broker reached out trying to sell the domain to it.

The code of conduct addresses some of these issues. For example, it states:

Unless I have written authorization from the buyer, seller, or owner of a particular domain name, I shall not represent that I act for or on behalf of the buyer, seller or particular domain name, respectively. If I am soliciting interest for my services as a broker with respect to a domain name which I am not authorized by the domain name owner to represent on their behalf, I shall include in my initial outreach the following statement, “I am not acting for the domain name owner, nor am I authorized by the domain name owner to do outreach on this domain name”, and the statement shall be included in a prominent manner such that it will be noticed by the recipient.


I shall not represent both the buyer and seller in respect of the same domain name unless I have obtained the client’s consent and have disclosed the dual agency to the client.

The code of conduct is a good first step in improving the domain broker ecosystem.

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