auDA Policy Review Panel ‘Not Acting in Best Interests of the Australian Internet Community’

The drama surrounding auDA, the regulatory body that oversees domains in Australia, continues. Earlier this year, auDA held public forums in relation to the upcoming rollout of .au domains. While many retailers and e-commerce businesses weren’t even aware of the discussion in relation to top level domains, others have been following closely, fearing that the change would cause sites to lose traffic and face the risk of cybersquatters. Businesses may also have to spend both time and money in order to retain the value of their domain name if .au is introduced, leading some to call it a ‘tax on businesses‘ and cash-grab from auDA.

One of the Policy Review Panel Members, Luke Summers, has just resigned, stating:  “I no longer have confidence that the Panel can proceed in a manner that is in the best interests of the Australian internet community.”

“I am greatly concerned that the Panel lacks objectivity, and that stakeholder feedback is being overwhelmingly overlooked in favour of personal views held by some Panel members,” Summers continued. “I cannot in good conscience be a participant in a policy reform process that lacks proper representation and objectivity; and that is highly likely to result in negative impacts on a large number of stakeholders in the Australian community.”

Jim Stewart, CEO of StewArt Media and outspoken dissenting member, has called for CEO of auDA, Cameron Boardman, to resign immediately, rounding up 5 percent of the organisation’s membership in order to force a special general meeting: “Mr Boardman has provided industry with no business case for a major reform that is likely to have significant negative consequences and there has been very little consultation with industry to discuss this critical change”

“The problems are many and the benefits are very, very slim,” Stewart said earlier this year.

“We’ve been told by auDA that there is a demand, but there is no data to support this,” Stewart told Power Retail. “In other countries it hasn’t worked. In New Zealand it hasn’t been taken up. In the UK they were giving away .uk for free to encourage take-up.”

“This whole process has damaged the .com.au brand. One of the very things auDA’s job is to protect,” said Stewart. “If you registered a .com.au after April 2016 you may want to look at moving away from it altogether as you probably won’t get the .au unless you pay a hefty sum to cybersquatters.”

In response to concerns raised, auDA Chair, Chris Leptos AM confirmed that a Special General Meeting had been called. “Under the Corporations Act 2001, just 16 signatures are sufficient to call an SGM at auDA due to its small membership base of 319.  This is the second SGM to be called in 9 months,” he said.

The auDA Board remains committed to ongoing reform and policy development informed by consultation with members and other stakeholders,” Leptos told Power Retail. “auDA’s Board and management are focussed on the critical projects currently underway, including preparing for a landmark transition to a new registry and awaiting the findings of a Federal Government Review into the best framework for managing the .au domain with responsibilities to more than 21.18 million internet users in Australia.”

A date for the special general meeting has not yet been announced.

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