by Jay Johansen | May 22, 2002
I recently received a letter with the warning, "Expiration Notice: Reply by May 15, 2002" on the outside of the envelope. Inside was a form that I could send in to renew my domain name registration. (Not for this site -- for another site I run that has its own domain name.) In big letters on the form is printed, "Domain Name Expiration Notice" and "Domain Name Renewal Form". Also prominent is the text, "Reply by May 15, 2002" and "Renewal Rate $29 annually per domain name".
Nothing peculiar about this, you might think. If you've ever registered an Internet domain name, you know that there is a fee to have one, and that must be paid on a regular basis. Even if you know nothing about domain name registration, such a letter surely sounds pretty routine.
Except ... except that the domain name referred to in this letter is registered with Register-dot-com, but this letter came from an entirely different company, VeriSign.
I have nothing against companies trying to persuade potential customers to patronize them. I have nothing against companies attempting to capture people who are presently customers of other companies. If a company wants to tell potential customers that their service is better than the competition, or cheaper, or whatever, more power to them. That's how free enterprise works.
But this letter was at the very least misleading. They call it an "expiration notice" and a "renewal". Okay, above the place where they want my signature it does say, "Renewal and Transfer Authorization". And that's just about the only hint. The only place where this letter actually says that they are trying to lure me away from my present company is in the tiny legal print on the back: "By signing the reverse side of this form, you hereby authorize us to transfer the registration of your domain name(s) from your current registrar to VeriSign ...". Nothing in the letter gives me any reason why I should transfer. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that they are hoping that I will be misled into thinking that this is a renewal with my present provider, and that I will simply sign it and send them a check or credit card authorization without studying it too closely.
© 2002 by Jay Johansen
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