The Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) operates within a set of binding policies and procedure and follows a clear path of stages. Most cases are resolved simply in a two stage process using mediation. In some cases, however, an expert decision is required.
Stage 1 – The Complaint
A complaint is submitted to us via the complaint form on our website. We then send this to the registrant of the domain name, and give them time to respond to the complaint. We send any response to the complainant who can then reply to any new points that the registrant has made.
Stage 2 – Mediation
Once the registrant has responded, the case can usually be resolved with the help of one of our mediators. In these instances, a trained member of our mediation team speaks neutrally and confidentially to both parties, and discusses how the dispute could be settled.
The majority of cases that reach this stage settle here, without costing any money (although sometimes the settlement includes money). Mediation usually lasts two weeks, but the mediator may adjust the time limits if necessary.
Stage 3 – Expert decision
If the case does not settle at mediation, or the registrant did not respond to the complaint, we will offer the complainant the chance to pay to have an independent expert appointed. If there was no response from the domain name registrant, the complainant can opt to pay £200 + VAT for a summary decision, otherwise the fee is £750 + VAT for a full decision. The fee goes entirely to the expert.
A registrant does not automatically lose just because they do not respond. The payment of the fee is voluntary, but if you do not pay the case will not proceed any further through our DRS.
The expert bases their decision entirely on the documents submitted by the complainant and registrant, and the Policy and Procedure. The expert does not get to see what happened in mediation (this is confidential). The parties cannot speak to the expert directly, and cannot send in any new evidence, so you must put all your information in your complaint, response or reply. If a full decision has been paid for, the expert provides a full length written decision which sets out their reasoning in detail. Summary decisions, on the other hand, do not generally contain any detailed reasoning, and just confirm whether or not the complainant has succeeded.
Complainants must specify the remedy they are seeking when they submit their complaint. If the expert thinks that the complainant has proved their case, they will generally give the remedy asked for by the complainant, though occasionally an expert will give a different remedy if they think it appropriate. If they do not think that the complainant has proved their case they will order no action is taken.
The most common remedy requested by complainants, and the one which we generally recommend is requested by the complainant, is an order that the domain name is transferred to the complainant. The expert can order that the domain name is suspended (that means that it is prevented from working but it is not deleted) or cancelled (deleted), but this is rarely requested.
The expert can also declare that the complainant was an attempt at 'reverse domain name hijacking' which means that the expert thinks that the complainant was using the DRS in bad faith in order to try and get a good domain name without reason.
Stage 4 – Appeal
Appeals are rare. The option to appeal is only available in cases that have gone to an expert decision. If you want to appeal, you must act within 10 working days of the date that the parties are deemed to have received the decision. The appeal is heard by a panel of three experts, and costs £3,000 + VAT (this does not have to be paid all at once, see the DRS procedure).
The expert's decision (and the appeal decision, if there is one) are published on our website.