Whilst uncertainty around the terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union remains, EURid (the European registry manager of .eu domain names) has provided information about what will happen to those .eu domain names which are currently owned by UK registrants.
The European Commission has made it clear that, subject to transitional arrangements that may be contained in any withdrawal agreement, after the UK leaves the EU individuals, undertakings and organisations within the UK will no longer be eligible to register, or renew, .eu domain names. This will be of a particular concern for those businesses who have a website or email addresses based on a .eu domain. The government guidance on the issue advises that such businesses consider a transfer to another top level domain (although this presumes that the same name is available with, for example, a .com or .co.uk suffix).
In the meantime, EURid’s notice provides details of the action plans for .eu domains following the UK’s departure: either on 30 March 2019 in the event of ‘no deal’, or on 31 December 2020 if an agreement on the terms of the withdrawal is reached. (Please note, where dates are included below, the start of such date is 12:00am Central European Summer Time.)
- From the relevant exit date (either 30 March 2019, or 1 January 2021), new applications to register .eu domain names by applicants from the UK will be rejected.
- Existing UK holders of .eu domain names will be notified of their non-compliance with the EU regulatory framework, both seven days before (on 23 March 2019, or 23 December 2020) and on the applicable exit day. However, they will be given an opportunity to demonstrate compliance for a further two months (up until and including 29 May 2019, or 1 March 2021) (the Compliance Deadline). During such time, domain names will remain active (although will not be automatically renewed) and the registrant may make certain changes, such as updating contact details and importantly, transferring the domain name to a non UK, EU based individual or organisation. If a registrant cannot demonstrate compliance by the relevant Compliance Deadline, they will be ineligible to own the .eu domain name and it will be withdrawn (the domain name will no longer function, but will remain on the .eu registry database until the expiry of 12 months from exit day, when it will become available for general registration within the EU).
.eu Domains subject to legal proceedings
- Where a UK registered .eu domain name is ‘on hold’ (i.e. subject to a legal court case pending judgment) at exit day, it will remain registered until the outcome of the court case, although any on hold domains will cease to function from either 30 May 2019, or 2 March 2021 (as applicable) until the outcome of the case. If the.eu domain name is found to be legally owned by a UK registrant, it will be withdrawn as set out above.
- If a UK registered .eu domain name already has a ‘suspended’ status as at exit day, EURid will consider the reasons for such status on a ‘case-by-case’ basis, and move forward with withdrawal as appropriate.
- When a UK registered .eu domain name is in ‘quarantine’ as at exit day, (i.e. it has been deleted but can be re-activated) it will not be possible to re-activate it by, or transfer it to, a UK registrant.
Although the plans offer some clarity for the estimated 300,000 UK registrants with top level .eu domain names, this does not detract from the fact that losing the domains could have significant impact for companies. Ownership of existing domain names may need to be transferred to EU registered entities or alternative domains found, although this may not be straightforward from either a registration, or a business continuity, perspective. With the first possible notification date just a few weeks away, affected businesses should seek advice as soon as they can.