A friend of mine came to me with her problem because of my Internet expertise. She's had 20 domains at the same registrar for about nine years, and the registrar said the WHOIS information was bad, so the registrar disabled DNS to all the domains a week ago (the websites won't load) and cut off her access to them (she can't transfer them to another registrar). She's been in this sad state for a week now.
My friend's real name and real P.O. Box have been listed in WHOIS for all the domains since she registered them, some as far back as nine years ago. The listed email address was accidentally not working due to an oversight, but she fixed that after getting notified by the registrar and the address is now working fine. She hadn't listed a phone number because she didn't want to get solicitations and didn't think it was required.
So of course she explains that "The name and address have been correct for nine years, I can send you a copy of my driver's license if you want, I just fixed the email address, and here's the phone number. And you can contact me at all three to verify that they're accurate."
But that's not good enough for the registrar. They're demanding an official government issued photo ID that shows my friend's name and address, and that address has to match what's already in the WHOIS record. This isn't just burdensome, it's impossible, as no governmentt ID will list a PO Box.
And they are ALSO demanding a "certificate of residence" issued by the local clerk's office, and a document from a telephone service provider showing my friend's name and phone number.
But wait, they're not done yet. They also say the info has to be verified with the appropriate federal or state agency before they'll give her her domains back.
Incidentally, my friend is a political activist, and she has the same privacy concerns that any of us would want when considering supplying the internet database with our home phone numbers and addresses. She has no problem providing accurate contact info, and she had readily agreed to supply this company with a drivers license with her home address on it, but that is not enough for this registrar who is making unreasonable and impossible demands.
She's asked the registrar repeatedly to at least turn the DNS back on while the WHOIS issue is being resolved, but the registrar refuses, and the sites have been down for a week now.
We're looking for lawyers now, and if you know of any with experience with Internet/ICANN isues, we could sure use some recommendations. Also, what does the community think about all of this? Can a registrar really demand what this one is demanding? I thought the only requirement was that the WHOIS info be complete and accurate, not that you have to provide your home address to your registrar and supply government documents to prove that you live there.
There are a few lessons here. One obviously is to make sure your WHOIS record has a working phone number and email address. The other is to choose your registrar carefully! Imagine losing years of hard work overnight because your registrar decides to be obstinate.
I don't know if I'm able to name the company that's holding the domains hostage, but if it's allowed, I'd sure like to.