Are you one of some 142,000 UK based registrants of .eu domain names with a potentially big problem on their hands? 

One consequence of Brexit is that from 1 January 2021 organisations established solely in the UK will no longer be entitled to hold a .eu domain.  This because under the EU Regulation on the implementation of the .eu Top Level Domain (No 733/2002), only EU citizens, non-EU citizen’s residing in a Member State, and organisations established in the EU are eligible to hold a .eu domain.  

EURid, as registrar for .eu domains, has recently updated its Brexit notice to provide more colour on the consequences for UK-based entities wanting to hold or register .eu domain registrations.  These entities must take these rules seriously - otherwise there is a risk that aspects of their business grind to a halt as they lose the functional elements related to .eu domain names such as websites and emails.  There is also a risk of their .eu domain name being used for fraudulent purposes.

What do UK tech businesses need to know (assuming that the transition period ends on 31 December 2020)

New registrations

  • from 1 January 2021, EURid will no longer accept registrations of .eu domains by UK based registrants.

Existing registrations

  • On 1 October 2020, EURid will email all UK registrants and their registrars to notify them that their .eu domain name will be withdrawn on 1 January 2021 unless they comply with the eligibility requirements above by updating their registration data before 31 December 2020.
  • On 21 December 2020, EURid will send a final email reminder to those UK registrants who have not properly updated their registration details.
  • From 1 January 2021, .eu domains which remain non-compliant with the .eu regulatory framework will be withdrawn (i.e. no longer function). 
  • From 1 January 2022, all withdrawn domain names will be revoked, and will become available for general registration by third parties on an ad hoc basis (which will raise alarm bells to some UK based .eu domain name holders – see below).


What do UK tech businesses need to do 

Portfolio audit

Check your domain name portfolio now for .eu domain name registrations:

  • If you have .eu domain names which are registered to a UK-based entity, then consider changing the registration details ASAP to an EU-based related entity if you have one.
  • If you have .eu domain names but no related EU-based related entity and the .eu domain name functions as your main website (rather then redirecting hits to it), then consider moving your website ASAP to another domain name level, such as .co.uk with Nominet or .com

Monitor

If you lose your .eu domain name on 1 January 2021 because you could not satisfy the eligibility requirements, consider using a domain name registration monitoring service from 1 January 2022 to see if a third party registers your .eu domain name.  This will be particularly relevant where the domain name involved incorporates a distinctive trade mark as opposed to generic words. 

Many businesses register several top-level domain names for their brand to prevent the registrations falling in the hands of fraudsters for phishing and other cyber-based attacks.  In practice, rather than maintaining numerous websites, these entities forward/point such defensive registrations to a single website homepage.  It remains to be seen what, if any, further measures are adopted by EURid to prevent potentially fraudulent registrations of previously UK-based registered .eu domains after 1 January 2022.

  

Reciprocity with Nominet?

Nominet, registrar of .uk domain names, has not announced that EU-based registrants of .uk domain names will be subject to the reciprocal registration restrictions as required by EURid.  Nominet may make such an announcement in the future - or it may choose to keep things as they are, in order to help support the idea that the UK is "open for business" post-Brexit.

  

Thank you very much to Calum Scott for his research in preparing this blog.