What to do if your registrar ceases to exist?
While it does not happen often, sometimes domain registrars go bankrupt or violate the terms of cooperation – they are not able to continue providing their services and leave their subscribers without support.
What will you do if one day you want to visit your website and it turns out impossible due to the lack of access to the domain, and your domain registrar disappears without informing you about it? What if they do not allow you to transfer the domain service to another operator? And above all, how do you verify that the registrar is to blame?
First of all, never let your domain expire. If you do, you may lose it forever. Many companies intercept expired and deleted domains in order to later try to resell them for a profit or use them for their own purposes.
Don’t worry! The article contains hints on how to correctly identify the cause of the problem and how to deal with it, in the case when your registrar suddenly ceases to exist. You will also learn how to regain control over your domain and move it to a safe place to keep your business running smoothly.
How to check if a registrar has ceased to exist?
According to an important life principle, prevention is better than cure. If you notice any alarm signal suggesting that your registrar might be leaving the market, you need to take action.
But what if one day your website is down, company e-mails do not work, and an advertisement from some other company is displayed at your address? Most often this is not a domain registrar problem. Start by checking that your hosting is working properly. Perhaps you have overlooked your payment for the service and you just need to pay the outstanding bills.
But are you sure you know who your domain and hosting provider is? Maybe they are two different companies? Or worse, maybe you have multiple domains hosted by different providers?
If you have verified that all obligations on your side have been complied with, make sure that your domain registrar has actually ceased to exist before proceeding with any action.
Maybe they are experiencing a temporary failure, which they informed about, for example on Facebook, LinkedIn, or the company blog. Look for the latest mentions about the registrar online, narrowing your search to, for example, content from last week.
Determine the company's tax identification number and make sure that it is still listed in the VAT register as an active taxpayer. If the entity has been removed, it’s a sign of problems.
But what if the hosting provider claims that the service is live, but the domain has expired, despite you paying for it? You can check the status of your domain in the WHOIS database. WHOIS is a domain information database where you will find, among others, information about the registry, registrar, and domain subscriber, as well as the period of validity of the service.
How to transfer domain service when your registrar ceased to exist?
If you have found information indicating that your registrar is no longer operating or there has already been a break in the provision of services related to your domain, you should transfer the domain service to another operator as soon as possible.
The good news is that a registrar going down does not mean your domains will be deleted. But it may cause service interruption if, for example, the registrar does not renew your domains in the registry or modifies their settings without consultation.
Firstly, you should know that your domain registrar can act in two different roles:
Accredited registrar of domains with a given extension.
Internet domain reseller.
It will be needed to determine who is responsible for managing your domains at the “higher level”.
An accredited domain registrar is a company that has a signed contract for the sale of domains directly with the registry, i.e. the entity managing a given domain extension. An example of such a company is LetsDomains.com, which has, among others, accreditation with the Polish NASK registry in the field of .pl domains.
Accreditation is connected with more formalities, but thanks to this, the registrar has greater requirements regarding the quality of services and is often able to offer lower prices for domains.
However, even direct accreditation does not guarantee the registrar's credibility. An example of a registrar that was accredited with the Polish NASK registry and that suddenly ceased its activity is the company Fachowcy.pl Ventures S.A. At the beginning of June 2020, subscribers of the Fachowcy.pl website lost access, among others to .pl domains. On June 5, NASK immediately terminated the agreement on cooperation in the field of Internet domains management. The reason for the termination of the contract was the registrar's breach of obligations arising from the agreement between him and the NASK register.
A domain reseller is a person or company that sells domains. It has no directly signed contracts with registries and works in conjunction with accredited registrars. Name.info is an example of a reseller of global and national domains, which terminated its activity without notifying its subscribers. At the end of September 2021, the first reports of the lack of access to the website's services appeared on the gowork.pl website. Already a month earlier, on August 3, 2021, the company was removed from the VAT register. Name.info used the services of the German registrar 1api.net and it is this company that eventually provided the domain subscribers with the data needed to transfer their domains.
How to check if the domain registrar is a domain reseller?
To check if the registrar is a domain reseller, use the WHOIS database.
Enter your full domain name and check the status next to “Registrar”.
If the name of the company is different from the one with which you have registered the domain, your domain provider probably uses the services of an accredited registrar.
An example of a query to the WHOIS database: a .pl domain registered in LetsDomains.com, i.e. with a registrar directly accredited in the registry.
Transfer of domain service using the authinfo code
The most common way to transfer domain service to another registrar is to transfer it using the authinfo code. The authinfo code is a string of characters unique for each domain name used during the domain transfer between two registrars. Usually, it is issued at the request of the domain subscriber — the current registrar completes and submits the appropriate application.
In most cases, this solution will not be possible if your registrar has disappeared into thin air. It is the registrar's responsibility to issue authinfo codes at the request of subscribers, regardless of whether they are directly accredited or are a reseller.
However, there are some rare registries that you can directly apply to generate an authinfo code. They then completely bypass their registrar.
One of them is EURid.eu – managing .eu domains, or Nic.cz – managing .cz domains. For EURid, you will need to complete the application and provide a compelling reason why you are asking the registry to generate a code. In the case of Nic.cz, the policy regarding the issuing of codes is amicable. You just need to fill out a form and pass a simple verification and the authinfo code will be sent to your e-mail address.
Another exception is Denic.de, managing .de domains. You can order an additional authinfo code through any registrar of your choice. This is possible if your current registrar is unwilling or unable to provide it. However, such a service involves an additional payment.
For most national domains, you will have to contact the registry directly and agree on the conditions for obtaining "fallback" authinfo codes individually. In order to determine the identity of the registry, it is best to use the domain database and search for an organization that manages a given registry.
If your domain is managed by a domain reseller, your task may be easier. It is worth contacting an accredited domain registrar directly, describing the situation to them and asking them to issue an authinfo code. However, whether they agree will depend on the platform’s policy and whether their client, and your registrar, violates the terms of cooperation, and often on how many complaints have been received regarding a given registrar.
Based on the example of nazwa.info, on the basis of information from the WHOIS database, we drew the attention of subscribers to the domains provided by this platform to the fact that the company is a reseller and purchases domains from an accredited registrar – 1api.de. After contacting this company, subscribers received the expected help.
The described methods will be effective if you are a subscriber to your domain and your data in the master registrar's systems are up-to-date. If it turns out that the data at your domain does not belong to you, but to your former IT specialist for example, and you have not been in contact for years, you will be facing a much more serious problem.
Transferring a .pl domain service
How to deal with a situation where you lose access to the most popular domain extension in Poland – .pl? Let us carefully analyse the applicable procedures.
You must take actions that are adequate to the situation. They can be divided into two cases:
When the registrar still has an active accreditation with NASK,
when the accreditation has been revoked.
Reporting a complaint against the registrar
If the registrar has a signed accreditation with the registry, but you are unable to communicate with them regarding matters related to the domain operation, you should report it to the registry.
You must know that as a subscriber of a .pl domain, you have your rights, and they are listed at https://dns.pl/en/registrant_rights_domain_pl. If you find that they have been violated by your registrar, you can and should submit a written complaint to NASK.
After receiving the complaint, the registry will try to clarify the situation with the registrar. If the registrar is still unavailable and registry intervention is unsuccessful, you can apply for an authinfo code directly from the registry.
The complaint should contain the following information:
a detailed description of the situation,
documents confirming the described situation (e.g. e-mail or written correspondence),
signature of the subscriber or a person authorised to represent them.
The most comfortable and quick way is to submit the completed form to the e-mail address provided in the procedure on the NASK website.
Transferring a domain from viNASK
A large number of justified complaints against the registrar may lead to the termination of the cooperation agreement on the part of the Polish registry. From the point of view of a subscriber who has not received an authinfo code, this is paradoxically a more convenient situation than writing complaints and waiting for a decision.
In the event that the accreditation is canceled and the registrar ceases to be responsible for managing .pl domains, they automatically come under the temporary care of the registry. In this case, the entry "viNASK" will appear in the WHOIS database next to the “registrar”. You should transfer a domain with such status to a new registrar until the end of the period it was paid for. Otherwise, its status will turn to „BLOCKED”, meaning an expired domain, which will be valid for 30 days. Transferring the domain service will still be possible, but with one reservation: in the event of inactivity on the part of the subscriber, the contract will be terminated and the domain will be transferred to the pool of free domains.
Domain transfer from viNASK is a procedure for .pl domains only, made available by the NASK registry. You can transfer domain service only to registrars who have declared their willingness to accept domain transfers from viNASK. A full list of registrars who offer such a service can be found at https://dns.pl/en/list_of_registrars. At LetsDomains.com (MSERWIS Sp.z o.o.sp.k.), we have declared our willingness to accept domain transfers from viNASK and we have successfully moved many of them.
In order to transfer the domain service, you must complete the application, print it, sign it and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. After accepting the application, NASK will transfer the authinfo codes to the new registrar and they will initiate the domain transfer. The application verification may take up to 5 working days. Therefore, if your domain is expiring, order the domain service to be transferred to a new registrar as soon as possible.
Transferring the maintenance of global domains
Transferring global domains may be associated with an additional difficulty, which is protection against the transfer of the domain to another registrar. In this case, you will see the status "clientTransferProhibited" in the WHOIS database. This is a lock at the level of the registrar that can only be removed by them. So how to deal with a situation where the registrar has stopped functioning and it is impossible to remove the block?
In the case of ICANN, the organization managing the most popular global domains, which include: .com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, you can additionally file a complaint. Submit it if the registrar does not unlock the domain or initiate the transfer, despite the correctly submitted request.
In the event of the registrar's collapse or termination of the contract, ICANN also has emergency procedures. They were used, for example, in 2007 at the time of the bankruptcy of the RegisterFly website.
Choosing a new domain registrar
When choosing a new registrar, make sure that it has been operating on the market for at least several years. Read their reviews and verify their procedures for issuing authinfo codes. Procedures should be transparent with the possibility of getting acquainted with them in advance. Avoid websites that offer authinfo codes only via traditional mail - if there are any problems with cooperation, the change of domain service will take even longer. Check the terms of domain transfers and compare their prices with other registrars. The domain maintenance price list should always be open, and not, for example, hidden in the terms and conditions of a discount offer or broken down into monthly periods (we pay for domain renewal on an annual basis).
As Lets Domains.com, we have been operating on the market for 20 years. During this time, we have helped many companies that experienced unpleasant incidents from irresponsible registrars. We have experienced many cases where companies went bankrupt, lost their accreditation with registers, or ceased operations overnight, without providing any explanations.
We are aware that such situations, unfortunately, may happen again. We have the appropriate experience and knowledge on how to react in such situations. We know what register to ask for help, what procedures and formalities will have to be fulfilled, how long it may take to change the registrar, what “surprises” you have to be cautious of etc.
And most importantly: we do not charge for support. You can call us, email us and even get in touch live via our online chat. We will advise you on transferring your domain to our platform as soon as possible and how to regain control as soon as it’s possible.
Summary — what to do when your registrar has ceased to exist?
A registrar going out of business or the lack of contact with it does not mean your domain has been deleted. There are emergency procedures for obtaining data necessary to transfer a domain to another trusted registrar.
If contact with your registrar is impossible, check the domain in the WHOIS database. Determine if it has not expired and which entity is its actual registrar.
At LetsDomains.com, we will help you transfer domains to our platform. If you have a question that has not been answered in the article, please contact our Customer Service Office - we will be happy to help!