Please note: Procedures and fees will periodically be subject to change. It is recommended that, before relying on this guide, you confirm the details below by checking the relevant transferring body's web site.
The process (and fee) for transferring a domain name will depend on the type of 'top level domain' being transferred. The top level domain is the end part of the domain name / web site address, e.g. whales.co.uk has a .uk top level domain. The two schemes which are likely to be relevant are:
- domain names ending in .uk which are administered by an organisation called Nominet
- most other top level domain names, i.e. those ending in .com, .biz, .bz, .cc, .gs, .info, .ms, .net, .org, .tc, .tv, .us, .vg and .ws which are administered by a company called Network Solutions
It is obvious that a transfer is required when registration of a domain name is being passed from the current owner to another. It is not so obvious that a transfer can also become necessary when the current owner changes its status in some way. For example if a domain name is registered by a partnership and that partnership later becomes a registered company, the domain name must be transferred to the newly incorporated company even though, practically speaking, the actual owners have not changed.
Just as the United Kingdom has its own .uk top level domain there are similarly top level domains (and transfer processes) for most other countries. For example Australia has a .au top level domain, India uses .in, etc. There are too many geographical variations to attempt to cover the transfer process for each in this guide. For a complete list of the various country specific codes with links to the relevant registration authorities refer to www.iana.org/cctld/cctld-whois.htm.
Below we have outlined Nominet's process for transferring any .uk domain name and Network Solutions' process for transferring generic top level domain names such as .com, .net and .org.
Nominet operate a paper based transfer procedure. Both the current registered owner and the person to whom registration is being transferred should complete a transfer form and send it to Nominet at the address given below. Both forms should be accompanied by a confirmatory letter which must be signed by the same person that signed the transfer form.
Most domain names, when registered, are normally accompanied by a Certificate of Registration. If this is the case then for the domain name concerned that certificate must also be sent to Nominet.
The transfer form (which can be found either on the back of the registration certificate if issued after 1 July 2002 or alternatively can be requested directly from Nominet) is in two parts.
The first part (sections 1 to 5) must be completed by the current registered owner. The second part (sections 6 to 9) must be completed by the person applying for ownership. The information should be completed and the form signed by an authorised representative of each party (in the case of a company, a director or the company secretary).
The Transferor and Transferee need not both sign the same form. The individual parts can be completed separately on different forms. Once submitted, Nominet will marry these different forms together to effect the transfer. Practically, this makes it more straightforward when the Transferor and Transferee cannot be in the same room.
The confirmatory letter should acknowledge the transfer of the domain name. It should be written on headed paper and include the following:
- in the case of a UK registered company, the full company name, registered address and company number
- in the case of a partnership, the name(s) of the proprietor or partners and also the full legal trading name and trading address (this should be referred to in the letterhead)
- in the case of an individual, the confirmatory letter must be written on plain paper and include a home address and the address given at the time of registration (if different)
- a statement confirming the signatories' agreement to the transfer of the specific domain name
- any other relevant information such as changes to contact details.
Documents should be sent to:
Nominet UK, Sandford Gate, Sandy Lane, West Oxford, OX4 6LB, England
The current fee for transfer of an address is £30 + VAT per transfer. This fee is subject to review every six months. If more than one domain name is being transferred between the same parties these can be processed in a single mass transfer. The fixed fee for a mass transfer is £60 + VAT with no limit to the number of domain names that can be transferred. The Nominet website (see below) gives more information regarding mass transfers.
The transfer process typically takes between 10 and 14 working days to complete.
Further information about Nominet and contact details can be found on its website at http://www.nominet.org.uk/ or by emailing email@example.com (Technical and General queries)
Network Solutions are part of the VeriSign group and operate an on-line transfer process. Transfer are made by visiting their web site at http://www.networksolutions.com/ and selecting the 'Transfer a Domain Name' option.
The exact process for transferring domain names is slightly different depending whether the transfer is between two Network Solutions accounts or whether it is from a non-Network Solutions account.
Inter-network solutions transfer
The transfer is started by accessing the web site, typing in the domain name to be transferred and following the instructions on screen.
Only one domain name can be transferred at a time so the process must be repeated for each name separately when processing multiple transfers.
If you are the account holder you simply need to enter your details when prompted and the transfer can be effected typically in one or two days.
If you are not the account holder but acting on their behalf, you will be required to enter your own details. Network Solutions will then send an 'authorisation request' via email to the person currently responsible for registration of that particular domain name. The current account holder will be asked to confirm the transfer within 14 days after which the transfer within take place in the next one to two days. If at the end of the 14 days the transfer has not been confirmed the request will be rejected.
Non-network solutions transfer
Transferring domain names from a non- Network Solutions account typically takes between five and seven days. The process is much the same as with inter-Network Solutions transfers except that up to 200 names can be entered in a single transaction.
Having submitted the request the administrative contact for each of the domain names will be contacted with a request to authorise the proposed transfer within 14 days after which time, if not approved, the request will be rejected.
The transfer fee is currently $19 (just over £10) and this includes an additional year's registration to the remaining term for that domain name.
Further information about Network Solutions and contact details can be found on its website at www.networksolutions.com.
Network Solutions is a large organisation based in the USA. Whilst it is possible to contact them directly by telephone, experience suggests that it is better to try and find the information on the website first as this is the first place you are likely to be directed when making a telephone enquiry. In the event that you do make a telephone enquiry, remember to ask the name of the person you are speaking to so that you can establish a point of reference and contact.
Transferring domain names between registrars
Transferring a domain name does not have to be a transfer of ownership. You may wish to move the registration of a domain name from one organisation to another if, for example, you want to take advantage of a cheaper annual registration fee of another registrar.
ICANN (the organisation responsible for managing and coordinating the Domain Name System (DNS) and ensuring all web addresses are unique) has produced its Inter-Registrar Transfer policy which controls the procedure for any transfers between domain name registrars. The policy is compulsory for all ICANN accredited registrars.
To transfer a domain name between registrars the domain name owner must contact the current registrar who will then send a form for the domain name owner to complete. They might also send a second form asking for information about the domain name owners intentions.
Domain name registrars should have an email address which is used solely for domain name transfer related issues. Any requests made through this address must be dealt with within seven days.
There are certain conditions under which a registrar may refuse to transfer a domain name, these being:
- within 60 days of the domain name being registered
- within 60 days of a domain name having been transferred
- the ownership of the domain name is in dispute
- the domain name owner has not paid for the registration
This full Inter-Registrar Transfer policy is available on the ICANN web site at http://www.icann.org/.
Buying and selling domain names
Most transfers between parties will involve a payment of money. An important issue to consider is the co-ordination of payment with the transfer itself. The buyer will need confidence that it will get control of the name when it parts with cash to the seller. Similarly the seller will not want to effect the transfer without some security that they will receive the payment.
The most efficient way of dealing with this in the case of a simple domain name transfer is for both parties to enter into a simple transfer agreement backed up with the escrow services of a law firm or other trusted third party. This means that the purchase fee is put into custody of the law firm until a particular condition is met, i.e. the domain name has been transferred. The parties would need to be clear how the condition will be shown to have been met. Typically a WHOIS search which shows the new registered owner is a suitable method. Once the condition has been satisfied the money is then released to the seller.
Where a domain name is being transferred as part of a larger disposal of assets, e.g. the sale of a business, synchronising payment may be less of an issue. In these cases it is probably sufficient to make payment conditional on the transfer being started at the date of the contract with further assurance provisions requiring the seller to complete the transfer. Where added security is required this can also be backed up by a power of attorney allowing the buyer to complete the transfer on the seller's behalf if they do not meet their obligations and complete it themselves.