I have found that information on the Internet about which companies provide good service, and which companies provide bad service, are always useful to me when making decisions about who to do business with. So I have decided that I will start posting examples of when I encounter particularly good or particularly bad customer service here, so that I can return the favour to other fellow Internet users. Note that many of the reviews I post will be negative. This is not because I sit all day in my darkened lair plotting the demise of the companies that incurred my wrath, but instead out of a desire to warn the public of companies which it would be best to avoid doing business with.
I have had the misfortune of dealing with a few companies with bad customer service (and the pleasure of dealing with some much more civil customer service representatives as well), lately, and so have a backlog of tales to report. However, I will start with the troubles I have had with the domain registrar OnlineNIC.
I am not a direct customer of OnlineNIC. I was actually a customer of web host Cleverdot, who sell domain names (in this case, my domain name amxl.com). However, Cleverdot is not a domain name registrar themselves. They instead resell the services of OnlineNIC to provide the domain name. The problems I am having arise when OnlineNIC have blocked my attempts to move to another registrar.
My story begins about a few weeks ago. My previous webhosting agreement with webhost Cleverdot (I had paid for 3 years in advance) was coming up towards its renewal date, and so I began to look into the options for hosting my domain in future. Cleverdot's servers have been a bit slow, but things have generally just worked. However, at the same time, web-hosting technologies are evolving all the time, and there are always new options - many of which Cleverdot won't support because they control their servers, not me. To cut a long story short (I plan to post a tutorial giving the details later), I decided to get a "VPE" (virtual private environment, a specific type of VPS, or virtual private server, hosting) so I would have complete control over the environment. This is essentially a case of buying the services I need to set up my own hosting, instead of using someone else's hosting.
Anyway, this required that I change my DNS records so that the nameserver for amxl.com will be my new VPE. However, Cleverdot's interface doesn't let me enter the IP of the nameserver, only the domain name. If the nameserver hosts its own domain name (which is the way I want to set things up - so my nameserver will be ns1.amxl.com), this is obviously insufficient. When someone wants to visit www.amxl.com, their browser would try to look up www.amxl.com. This would cause the recursive nameserver performing the lookup to ask which nameserver hosts amxl.com. The answer would be ns1.amxl.com. Next, the nameserver would need to look up the IP address for ns1.amxl.com. This is where the problem is - if the IP isn't entered, the recursive nameserver won't know the address of ns1.amxl.com. Most registrars allow you enter the IP address of the nameserver to solve this problem.
My solution to this problem was to try to change to a new registrar. Before I go into the problems I encountered, let me provide some background on how the domain name registration works.
So now that you know the basics of how the gTLD system is supposed to work, let me now tell you about OnlineNIC. OnlineNIC is a registrar (CleverDot is a reseller of OnlineNIC services). OnlineNIC is one of those registrars that focuses on providing domain names to resellers - they don't allow normal low volume customers to register domain names with them directly. I tried to transfer my domain from CleverDot resold OnlineNIC to Namecheap resold Enom (Namecheap is a registrar with a very good reputation. They are apparently approved by ICANN as a registrar, but at present still resell Enom provided registrations).
The transfer process for .com domains goes like this:
However, OnlineNIC have explicitly denied my transfer, and have yet to tell me why - I have asked them and have not got a reply. I am apparently not the only person this is affecting (google for OnlineNIC denying transfers for lots more reports). It appears they are probably denying all transfers out at present, whether or not they are allowed to under ICANN policy.
OnlineNIC has apparently been successfully sued in the US for millions of dollars by Verizon for trademark infringement, but are based in China, and didn't respond to the suit. Some people have suggested there may be a link. At the very least, many people are concerned that OnlineNIC are going to go out of business and appear to be leaving. Maybe denying transfers is a misguided last-ditch attempt to stop customers leaving. All of this is really just speculation, but the key message is that OnlineNIC are stopping people from transferring their domains away from them.
So I think the moral of the story here is: don't use OnlineNIC.
In terms of next options, I am trying to get NameCheap to convince enom to file a transfer dispute against OnlineNIC with Verisign. Under the transfer disputes policy at http://www.icann.org/en/transfers/dispute-policy-12jul04.htm this is an option - but it is up to enom to file the dispute.