Summary: A business with a .uk domain name that Nominet looks after cannot opt out of having their address published on whois.
From time to time, as a website owner, you might come across another website where you want to contact the owner. For example, you might find a site that’s copied your content, misquoted you or is even impersonating your company. You want to take action – you run a WHOIS search and what happens? The website is listed as a private individual. There’s no contact information on the site. Is this allowed?
The first thing to bear in mind is that business websites have to comply with UK law. They are required under UK law to give certain information about their company on their website, including their company name, any trading name, their address, registered company number and VAT number (if applicable). This information is required even if they’re not actually selling goods through their website.
A .uk registrant can only opt out from having their address published on WHOIS if they are a living individual who is not using their domain name in the course of a business, trade or profession – for example, a consumer.
On this topic, Nominet have said:
“If we are made aware of a .uk domain name that is registered to an individual and they are using it as a business website we will issue them notice to change their website so that they do not advertise business activities, otherwise we will remove the opt-out, and the address details that we hold for them will be published on the WHOIS at www.nominet.org.uk/go/whois“.
If you come across a site which is obviously a business but has kept its details private on Nominet, contact Nominet. Nominet is the registry for .uk domain names and they manage the central database for .uk registrations. They will issue notice to the registrant of the domain name(s) to arrange for their websites to be changed so that they do not advertise business activities. If they do not comply, they will be opted in to the WHOIS search facility and their address details will be shown.
If you are concerned about the content of a particular web site, in the first instance, you should contact the registrar associated with the domain name.
Although Nominet are not a regulatory or governing body and cannot comment on the business practices of registrants or the content of their web sites, they state that they take complaints of this nature seriously and recommend you report this issue to the appropriate organisation:
– To report illegal web site content, you should contact the Police. You can find information on your local Police Force at www.police.uk/forces.htm.
– The Advertising Standards Authority may also be able to assist and you can contact them at www.asa.org.uk.
Nominet also have a Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) which you can use if you feel that a .uk domain name registration has caused unfair harm, either in the way it has been used or by its very existence. The party complaining may wish to have the registration cancelled or suspended, but usually they want the registration transferred so that they can control how the domain name is used.
More information about how this works can be found at http://www.nominet.org.uk/disputes/drs/
If you do not meet the criteria for the Dispute Resolution Service you can seek independent legal advice or obtain a court order.