The Advisory Boar

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <>

Namecheap suspended my domain without notification

My mother called to tell me that people were complaining that mail sent to her address at one of my domains (menon-sen.com) was bouncing. Here's an excerpt from the bounce message she sent me:

DNS Error: 27622840 DNS type 'mx' lookup of menon-sen.com responded with code SERVFAIL

I thought it was just a temporary DNS failure, but just for completeness I tried to look up the MX for the domain, and got a SERVFAIL response. I checked WHOIS for the domain and was horrified to find this:

Name Server: FAILED-WHOIS-VERIFICATION.NAMECHEAP.COM
Name Server: VERIFY-CONTACT-DETAILS.NAMECHEAP.COM

In a near-panic (because this meant email to one of my work addresses was also being bounced), I checked a bunch of stuff: No, the whois details for the domain were not incorrect (nor had they been changed recently). No, Namecheap had not sent me any whois verification mail about the domain. No, Namecheap had not sent me any notification that it was going to suspend the domain. No, the Namecheap admin page didn't say anything about the domain having been suspended.

I couldn't find any relevant articles in the support knowledgebase, so I opened an emergency ticket with Namecheap support. They responded in an hour, and helped to resolve the problem immediately. They did admit that I didn't receive a notification because of an error on their part:

We have double-checked contact details on the domain in question and registrant details appeared to be missing on the domain due to a one-time glitch at our end. That is the reason you have not received verification email. Please accept our most genuine apologies for the inconvenience caused you.

I have always found Namecheap support to be responsive and helpful. I do appreciate their candour and the prompt response in this case as well, but I am deeply shaken that their system has no controls in place to prevent a domain from being suspended without any sort of notification (especially since they were sending me notifications about other domains registered under the same account in the same time period).

I don't know when exactly the domain was suspended. I have actually lost mail because of this incident—and at least one of them was an important response to some mail I sent. But thanks to my mother's correspondents, I think the problem was discovered before very long. I cannot afford to worry about this happening for my other domains that are up for renewal in the near future. If the same thing had happened to toroid.org, it would have been catastrophic.

I have been a happy customer of Namecheap for more than five years, and recommended it to any number of friends during that time. Along with EasyDNS (which is much more expensive), it's by far the best of the dozen or so registrars I've used over the past two decades. I have no idea where to move my domains, but I'll start keeping an eye out for an alternative.

Update, moments after writing the above: my friend Steve points out that there's something to be said for having a vendor who admits to their errors honestly; and only a pattern of errors rather than a single incident would justify moving my domains away to an unknown registrar. A few days from now, I hope to be able to properly appreciate Steve's wisdom in this matter. Meanwhile, I'm saved from precipitous actions by the fact that I haven't the faintest idea where to migrate anyway.

Transferring domains from 123-Reg.co.uk

A friend had a domain registered at 123-Reg that he no longer wanted. It was coming up for renewal later this month, and he offered to transfer it to me. The domain was not locked, so I asked him for an auth code, and immediately submitted a request to transfer it to Namecheap, my preferred registrar.

The transfer failed, and Namecheap sent me mail saying the domain was locked. I checked, and it was. It had also already been transferred to another sponsoring registrar (Mesh Digital, the company that owns both 123-Reg and Domainmonster). My friend contacted support to unlock the domain, but by then of course the domain had entered the sixty-day period during which it could not be transferred again. I was forced to pay the renewal fee to them, and will now have to retry the transfer after the embargo expires.

I suppose I could think of benign explanations for the above if I tried, but I'm not feeling especially charitable about it.

Domain registration with Net4India

In February 2005, the "IN" TLD was opened to registrations. In the weeks preceding the opening, a number of registrars were accepting pre-orders for .IN domains, the idea being that they would submit the requests once the registry was opened. I wanted to register oryx.in, and I chose to use Net4India as registrar.

I submitted the pre-order and tried to pay the required INR4500 (500 for processing fees and 4000 for two years' registration charges) by credit card, but the transaction failed; and instead, I paid in person at their office by cash. I got a receipt, and was told that my registration would be processed.

A few days after the opening, I noticed that the domain had not yet been registered. I received no response to my mail asking why not. I tried to register the domain using another registrar (Key Systems), and was able to do so, thus proving that my registration had not even been processed. I received no response to followup inquiries either. An ex-employee of Net4India gave me the email address of a director, to whom I addressed a complaint. He forwarded it to someone in the customer support department who asked me for the details of the case, but did not get in touch with me again, or respond to my mail over the next few months.

I sought legal advice, but lacked the time, money, and energy to follow the suggested course of serving notice and attending the consumer court. By early 2006, I had given up hope of ever recovering my money, and was reminded of the incident only by the occasional spam that was sent to the throwaway address that I'd used to communicate with the company.

In early 2009, by some monumental coincidence, someone from the company posted to a mailing list I'm on, asking for some help. I replied to the effect that I'd be happy to help if he could help me get a refund, and to my amazement, he did so within a week. (I got only INR4000, because the processing fee was non-refundable. Given that they hadn't actually done any processing… but after three years, I didn't want to quibble.) I am extremely grateful for the prompt and courteous assistance I received.

But I'm afraid I cannot recommend Net4India as a domain registrar.