HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has insisted on having a Panama company trading as the “Whois Foundation” formally stripped of a handful of dodgy web domains, even though the firm instantly offered to hand them over when challenged.
The sites, hmrc-onlines.co.uk, hmrc-tax.co.uk, hdmrc.co.uk and hmrcsubmitareturn.co.uk, were registered by the Panama-headquartered Whois Foundation, which does not appear to have any link to the ICANN Whois service.
HMRC said that the sites were abusive registrations that were “highly likely to confuse people or businesses into believing that the Domain Names are registered to, operated or authorised by, or otherwise connected with” the taxman.
Whois allows people to find out who or what has registered a particular .com web address. You enter the address you’re interested in on the ICANN website (many alternatives run by third parties are available) and it returns information about the registrant such as their name, address and contact details. Local domain registries for non-dotcom TLDs around the world run their own versions of this – and in the UK’s case this is run by Nominet, which control the .uk global top-level domain (gTLD).
Having discovered the web addresses, the UK's taxman took the Whois Foundation to Nominet’s Dispute Resolution Service. This is a semi-judicial operation which acts like a court, ruling who gets to keep disputed web domains and who hangs onto them.
HMRC told the DRS that the Whois Foundation “appears to be a prolific domain name squatter”, with DRS expert adjudicator David Engel noting that the Panama company is the registered owner of 53,954 .uk domains. It gave examples of some of those domains, including agentprovacteur.co.uk, bankofscorland.co.uk and cathkindston.co.uk.
The Whois Foundation responded to the DRS process by saying, via email: “We are agreeable to transferring the domains.” HMRC’s lawyer shot back: “Further to your email; my client does not want to settle and has instructed me to ask you to proceed to appointing an Expert to make a decision.”
For his part, Engel noted: “hdmrc.co.uk is a classic case of typo-squatting, by the insertion of a single letter in the mark,” referring to the registered trademark of “HMRC” incorporated in the domain name.
The four sites were stripped from the Whois Foundation and transferred to HMRC by order of the DRS. ®