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Court Shuts Down Website Selling Bogus .USA Domain Names
March 11, 2002
An operation that used deceptive spam messages and appeals to patriotism to sell Web addresses that don't work, including ".usa," has been shut down by a U. S. District Court at the request of the Federal Trade Commission. The court's action ensures that the defendants will not be able to reemerge by registering the same domain names offshore. The court also ordered an asset freeze to preserve money for consumer redress. Officials from the United Kingdom's Office of Fair Trading have been assisting the FTC on the issue of domain name sales and are investigating such activities in the U.K.
According to the FTC, the bogus businesses sold domain names ending with suffixes such as ".brit," and ".bet ." After September 11, the companies launched an aggressive spam campaign in the United States to advertise domain names ending in ".usa." Subject lines in their e-mail read, "Be Patriotic! Register .USA Domains." The text of the e-mail said:
"The latest domain name extension has arrived .USA!!! It's the fresh, new, exciting web address that is taking the world by storm. Who wants to be .com when you can now be .USA. Register your .USA domain name today exclusively at: http://www.dotusa.com."
The hyperlink connected consumers to a Web site where they were offered the advertised domain names for $59 each. The FTC alleges that the companies are not accredited domain name registrars, that the ".usa" domain names are not usable on the Internet, and that they probably never will be useable. In papers filed with the court, the agency said that many consumers had purchased multiple bogus domain names, and the defendants likely pocketed more than $1 million from their illegal scheme in less than a year.
"These spam scammers conned consumers in two ways," said J. Howard Beales, III, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "They sent deceptive spam, and they sold worthless web addresses from their Web sites. By closing down this operation we're sending a strong signal: We will not tolerate deceptive spam."
The FTC alleges that the companies violated federal law by failing to disclose on their Web sites that the domain names they were selling were not useable on the Internet, and by sending the deceptive spam. The FTC has asked the court to permanently bar the operation from deceptively selling the domain names and to order consumer redress. The defendants' Web site domain names are registered with U. S. companies. The defendants will be prevented from reestablishing the same domain names in another country because the domain names have been suspended by court order. The FTC complaint names TLD Network Ltd., Quantum Management (GB) Ltd., TBS Industries Ltd., Thomas Goolnik, and Edward Harris Goolnik of Finchley Road, London, England.
The FTC vote to file the complaint was 5-0. It was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in Chicago, on February 28.
FTC v. TLD Network Ltd., Quantum Management (GB) Ltd., TBS Industries Ltd., Thomas Goolnik, and Edward Harris Goolnik (Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division).
Complaint for Injunctive and Other Equitable Relief [PDF 242K]
Memorandum Supporting Plaintiff's Ex Parte Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Other Equitable Relief, and Order to Show Cause Why A Preliminary Injunction Should Not Issue [PDF 653K]
Temporary Restraining Order With Asset Freeze And Other Equitable Relief [PDF 442K]
The above article was reprinted from an announcement on the Federal Trade Commission web site dated March 11, 2002. Check the FTC web site for any changes to the article.
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