.NZ Consultation Looks At Reimagining Dispute Resolution

New Zealand’s Domain Name Commission is seeking input to review how dispute resolution services for .nz are handled. They’re asking interested parties to tell them what type of dispute services should be available from the DNC.

To help provide background, the DNC has compiled a consultation paper [pdf]that examines how other jurisdictions have tackled the same or similar problems, what constitutes best practice and possible options for resolving domain name disputes more efficiently and effectively into the future.

The consultation is steering clear of making in-line changes to its existing dispute resolutions policy framework. Rather, its focus is on dispute resolution as a ‘service’ offering and asking open questions about what types of services, how might they be delivered, for whom and by whom and what processes might be needed to support the delivery of speedy, independent, fair and efficient digital justice.

It’s not that the number of disputes for New Zealand’s country code top-level domain are high. There have been 300 disputes since the existing dispute resolution service was introduced in 2006, and according to the DNC’s 2017/18 annual report there were 22 valid complaints received during the 12-month period with 6 going to mediation and 3 reaching settlement. However, closer inspection by the DNC revealed that 4 of the disputes validly lodged last year did not progress any further, because of unpaid fees. The reason for this lack of progression is unknown.

So the DNC wants to know if their processes are putting stakeholders off. The consultation paper also notes 6 further complaints, (more than a quarter) were never responded to by the registrant, voiding the Complainant’s access to cost-free mediation and making a fee payable for an Expert Determination. In the context of the overall total number of disputes made each year, the DNC notes these numbers are significant. In each case, the determination resulted in the disputed domain name being transferred to the Complainant. Arguably says the DNC, that is unfair to the Complainant. Other jurisdictions faced with the same circumstances either grant a discount (Canada) or give the option of a summary judgment (UK). Similar to the .uk model, .za (South Africa) makes use of a process called a ‘Summary Decision.’ If a registrant does not submit a response, the adjudicator must decide the matter based on the dispute contemplated in regulation and issue a summary decision.

The consultation could be a world first among top-level domain registries and will examine current procedures, fees, whether there are barriers to lodging disputes, ensuring natural justice is met, what innovation is possible such as utilising Blockchain technologies and artificial intelligence. The consultation paper also looks at tightening point of registration controls to lower the risk of a complaint occurring and providing ‘without prejudice’ early indicative judgements.

There are 4 ways for anyone interested to make a submission: to submit a response to their consultation paper by 19 July, to complete an online survey that should take around 5 to 10 minutes, attend one of 2 6 hour workshops to be held in Wellington (24 July) and Auckland (26 July) or an online brainstorming exercise from 3 July.

For more information, see the Domain Name Commission’s Dispute Resolution Review page here.