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New rules for .ZA domains a “smokescreen money-grab”

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South African registrars who offer .ZA domains say new regulations drafted by the .ZA Domain Name Authority (ZADNA) will cause more harm than good.

Last month, ZADNA published draft regulations governing various entities in South Africa’s domain name ecosystem — such as registrars and registry operators.

Registrars help users buy and organise their domains and include hosting companies such as Absolute Hosting, 1-Grid, and Domains.co.za.

Their concerns regarding the regulations include privacy and technical implications, unrestricted access to registrar environments, and the costs incurred by registrars to comply with the new rules.

MyBroadband spoke with Absolute Hosting managing director Jade Benson who gave his views on the proposed regulations.

He also consulted other registrars who use his platform to speak on their behalf.

“We consulted with other registrars who use the ZA Domains platform regarding the proposed changes and the majority objected to the changes,” said Benson.

“If anything, the new regulations are invasive and seek to cause more harm than good in an existing ecosystem that has run well for many years,” he added.

Among the proposals in the regulations, it states that registrars must apply for a licence.

“This is merely a smokescreen for a money grab by enforcing licensing fees on every registrar that operates within the .ZA namespace,” said Benson.

Another serious concern is section 9.1 of the proposed regulations in which ZADNA seeks unrestricted access into the Registrar’s environment to perform tests and audits for the sake of “compliance”.

Benson told MyBroadband that registrars explicitly stated that they would not grant any third-party access to their environment.

The proposals in the regulations also state that registrars should be responsible for the collection of personal identifying data for all registrants and submit this data to ZADNA at the time of registering a domain name.

“ZADNA has not considered the privacy and technical implications of such proposed changes. Many registrants exist outside of South Africa and their personal information is subject to foreign laws,” said Benson.

One such law is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which is a regulation protecting data privacy in EU law.

ZADNA hasn’t given any consideration to these types of data subjects.

Additionally, South Africans who wish to register domains are already cautious about handing out too much information given the recent security breaches of Absa, TransUnion, and Experian.

ZADNA has failed to clarify how this data will be transferred and who will bear the costs incurred by registrars to modify their systems to cater to the new rules.

Domains.co.za managing director Wayne Diamond also noted concerns that the regulations will hinder the competitiveness of local-based providers.

“The domain and web hosting space are extremely competitive worldwide and South African companies are already struggling to compete with the international providers,” said Diamond.

1-Grid CEO Thomas Vollrath told MyBroadband that any costs related to compliance and licensing will end up being passed on to the consumer.

This would mean small providers may no longer be able to offer competitive pricing.

Diamond stated that industry bodies and stakeholders should have been more involved in any regulations that have a direct bearing on the growth and advancement of the industry.

“Any new regulations and requirements will push registrants from registering local .za domains to rather registering international domains that are easier,” he added.

Benson agreed that the regulations will push registrants away.

“The additional fees and red tape may be the end of .co.za domains, as registrars seek other alternatives such as .africa domains which are not subject to political and government interference,” said Benson.

Public comments for these regulations are open until 6 June 2022.


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