Namecheap claims victory in .org and .info price cap battle

Registrar says panel found largely in its favor in dispute over uncapped registry prices.

Domain name registrar Namecheap is claiming victory in a battle it waged to keep price caps on .org and .info domain names.

The company filed for the Independent Review Process (IRP) in 2020 to protest ICANN’s unilateral decision to remove price caps on .org and .info domain names. ICANN staff made the decision to remove price caps even though it was against the interests of domain name registrants and registrars.

While the IRP hasn’t been made public yet, Namecheap says the panel’s ruling states:

  • The ICANN Board (not ICANN staff) should take the ultimate decisions as to how to implement the IRP Panel’s ruling — The ICANN Board should consider creating and implementing a process to conduct further analysis of whether including price caps in the Registry Agreements for .ORG and .INFO is in the global public interest. The process should encourage the participation of diverse stakeholders, and be conducted in an open and transparent manner.
  • As the evidence that price controls should be retained is much stronger for .ORG than for .INFO, the remedial measures for .ORG may be stronger and more extensive than for .INFO (due to its non-profit nature).
  • The Board should consider whether to retain an expert to conduct a study on issues raised by the IRP decision, such as whether .ORG and .INFO have sufficient market power that price caps may be desirable. If the Board decides not to conduct further expert analysis, it should explain the reasons for that decision.
  • If the Board concludes that some form of price control for .ORG and/or .INFO are in the global interests, ICANN should seek to amend the 2019 Registry Agreements to include appropriate price controls.
  • The ICANN Board may wish to consider approaching the registry operators for .ORG and .INFO about agreeing to some form of price controls. If they are willing to agree to amend their registry agreement, that may moot the need to implement the other measures above.
  • The ICANN Board should consider revisions to ICANN’s decision-making process to reduce the risk of similar procedural violations in the future.
  • Finally, ICANN should reimburse Namecheap the sum of US$ 58,750.00 (IRP arbitration fees).

The problem for ICANN is that it already amended its contracts to remove price controls with the registries that manage .org and .info. Whether or not it can get them to agree to caps now is questionable. And ICANN has been on a crusade to remove all price caps and to argue that it isn’t a price regulator for domain names.

The IRP ruling could influence ICANN in the future when it is pressured to remove .com price controls.

[Editor’s note: I have not seen the IRP at the time of publishing this story. The above is based on Namecheap’s blog post about the decision.]

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