In a circular notice sent to local registrars, the CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center) has sent a reminder that blocking customers who wanted to move to another registrar was unlawful.
Indeed, “domain holding” or “domain ransom” is quite a widespread issue in mainland China, with hosts refusing to release customers domains when they wish to change of company. As a web hosting company, we have been again and again confronted with customers who wanted to move to us from a local Chinese hosting firm (due to poor performance, email delivery issues, high costs etc.), just to find out that the old company is rejecting any assistance in terms of transferring the domain to us. In many cases clients who didn’t want to lose their well-marketed domain names ended up staying with that old company they weren’t satisfied with. The only option in many cases were to keep the domain with the registrar then change the DNS to us only for web hosting/email hosting.
The CNNIC rules are clear in terms of domain transfer: customers CAN freely transfer their domains as long as they are 60 days old and over 15 days away from their expiration date. The domain should not be involved in any dispute and there should not be any outstanding fees to pay to the registrar at the moment the transfer is requested. The registrar is obligated to provide demanding customers with the auth code within three (3) working days. The losing registrar shouldn’t in any case ask for additional fees to authorize the transfer.
If you are about to register a domain name or start a website in China, you should take the following measures in order to avoid finding yourself in such situation: 1. Make sure to use a reputable host who has a clear policy in terms of domain transfer. SinoHosting.net for instance make sure to register all clients domain names under their own names, and they are 100% guaranteed to be able to transfer away if required. 2. If you move a lot, it makes sense to keep your domain registration company different from the actual web hosting company. It might cost a few dollars at most but it may save your business from losing its most important asset.
The litigation process involving the CNNIC or even the Chinese courts for domain names can be very long. Make sure to start from the right foot when you develop an online presence in China.