Domain Renewal Group. Yuck.

Nov 30

Here’s one about ethics in marketing and advertising, and I am not, for once, talking about buying links. Advertising is, to a large degree, an exercise is fooling people into handing over their money. This morning, however, I was presented with a form of marketing that, to my mind, crosses the lines of acceptability.

The post arrived. I was handed a letter and plain white envelope. It was, on first glance, a bill. The point, however, is that it wasn’t.

These notices are relatively common, although we ignore them to the detrminent of online marketing’s standards and reputation. They try quite hard to make it seem as though one needs to pay in order to keep one’s property. The text states in bold that the letter is not a bill (and I didn’t even need to get past the first couple of glances to know what was going on), as is shown in the image below. However, without my highlighting (and due to other features of the letter, which I’ll also cover), that one statement hardly stands out. Additionally, it arrived in the post. We’re far more accustomed to ignoring emails than to ignoring official-looking mailed documents.

These notices certainly try their best to look like a bill, read like a bill and barely highlight the fact that they aren’t. From a company called Domain Renewal Group (), the letter explains that “in the next few months”, a domain the recipient owns is set to expire. As it turns out, the domain referenced in my letter does not expire until late April, 2010, but the date on the letter that catches the eye is December 28th of this year. The goal of the letter is to have a person transfer registration to Domain Renewal Group from their current registrar. The fine print makes clear that the move is not mandatory, but the layout and tone of the letter is quite obviously deliberately structured to scream “invoice!”

Click the image for a full-sized version

To my mind, this sort of marketing seeks to exploit a couple of things. Firstly, a lot of people tend to operate in a state between busy and lazy. Especially if a person is used to receiving scores of notices, bills, invoices and receipts, they can become lazy about the fine print. Secondly, the vast majority of people do not “get” Internet. I dare say over half the people reading this don’t know how domain registration works, and most of you are probably geekier than average. A large number of people will, at least on initial inspection, assume that this is something they need to do in order to keep their website.

Ignorance, laziness and the need to move onto other tasks combines: “This note says we need to pay £20.00 by December 28 to keep that domain? Stick it on the card we use for incidentals.” People’s natural reaction upon receiving an invoice tends to be to jump to the bottom, where the numbers are, to figure out what they owe. Again, only once does the notice state that it isn’t a bill, and it doesn’t state this in a noticeable manner.

I estimate that a huge portion of the Domain Renewal Group’s sales are borne of this partnership of misunderstanding and hurried bill-paying. For a couple of times more money than is necessary to renew a domain name in most cases, people transfer their registration to this company.

Question time: Does this go too far? I say it does, but I work in the online marketing community and I would guess that some of you will disagree. “It’s in the fine print; hell, the print ain’t even that fine. In neatly printed Arial, it says ‘This notice is not a bill’. If you fall for this, it’s your own fault.”

Indeed, the practice isn’t illegal. It is, however, a disgusting way to advertise and it isn’t exclusive to domain registrars. Make it seem like a potential customer owes you money (and that they’ll lose something important to them if they don’t pay). Classy stuff, Domain Renewal Group. I can only hope everyone takes your name to Google before parting with their cash.

via on Flickr

21 Responses to “Domain Renewal Group. Yuck.”

  1. Ian Miller says:

    You’ve blocked out the domain but it’s still in the first paragraph ;)

    I hate these too. I get them for the sites looking to sell me domains that might come up for sale i.e. you tell them you’re interested so they buy it up to sell onto you at inflated prices.

  2. Kate Morris says:

    Totally a new year’s thing, I got a few of those too. I can’t remember which domains they picked. But man it’s just slimey.

  3. richardbaxterseo says:

    Yep – got one of these this morning. They make you look twice don’t they! God only knows how many thousands of people fall for these. There’s a very similar thing happening with Trademarks too. Boo.

  4. evilgreenmonkey says:

    The “This notice is not a bill” part only appeared after some Nominet members and I challenged them back in 2002 – there’s probably a forum post from me about this somewhere. They used to have a freepost address, until some childish idiots started sending packages to them.

  5. Jane says:

    @Rob I saw one commenter somewhere else suggesting filling the envelope they enclose with sand (although I can think of worse substances) and sending it back to their London mailbox. I did fill out my form with some interesting information… really can’t be bothered paying the postage though :P

  6. Richard says:

    I get these all the time as i am a contact for quite a few sites that I have something to do with.

    They are pretty clear to me that they are not a bill, but I wonder how some that are second language people get on with them. When I was a helpdesker I had a person pay “bills” that said they were in credit, getting angry as they kept getting larger and larger each time they got one despite paying them. If people are that easily seperated from their money then its quite obvious that its a reasonable moneyspinner.

  7. Kalena says:

    I’m pretty sure Domain Renewal Group is the new name that Domain Registry of America have been forced to use since they were prosecuted for similar stuff. They didn’t much like it when I ranked higher than they did on the Goog for their name: Perhaps you could help them rank for their new name ;-)

  8. Jane says:

    It seems that Domain Renewal Group is the name by which the company goes by in the UK. Their SERP is already really awful here; fresh content had this post ranking 11th for the term yesterday, and I’m sure it will be back in time.

  9. Noo Yawka says:

    Gosh, the promises in the letter reminded me of certain politicians I know of.

  10. Kalena says:

    Well well. Received one of these myself today from same address as the old DROA in Melbourne. So looks like DROA have had to rename themselves Domain Renewal Group. Same Scam Different Day. Let’s see how long it takes us to Googlebomb *Domain Renewal Group* :-)

  11. Dan Pyrex says:

    They are also sending letters out to domain holders in Ireland.
    White windowed envelope, postmark says:

    U.S. Postage
    JHI – 9014
    Jamaica, NY

  12. Jane says:

    @ Dan

    It’s got to be working for them, and their US parent / partner. I receive a lot of traffic from search engines for people who’ve searched for Domain Renewal Group; the post is ranking fairly well for it.

    I can only hope that I’ve deterred quite a few people from giving these creeps money.

  13. Dan Pyrex says:

    Forgot to say: the envelope has no address printed on the outside, but it’s visible on the pre-printed reply envelope through the outer envelope (which I have not yet opened):

    56 Gloucester Road, Suite 526
    London, England
    SW7 4UB

    I could open it, fill it in with something to waste their time, and post it to them (it has no freepost – they expect anyone dumb enough to fall for this slamming to also pay postage), or I could just write Return To Sender on it.

    Going by some other blog comments, loading it up with other junk mail and sending it to them unpaid is a better deterrent, as they have to pay the return postage. And anyway, I am a fully paid up (and card carrying) member of The Lumber Cartel.

  14. Dan Pyrex says:

    I only posted to push the ranking up a bit!

    Last post was still in 2009, but most of the first page of Google results is other blogs or boards, all saying the same thing. Others have called it a SERP fail, but the point of sending this scam out by post is to exploit those who don’t know (or care) what a SERP is.

    I won’t post again until I get another letter from them. I look after a lot of domains, and none of them use the word Pyrex (just incase DRG are reading this and getting ready to whitewash their snail mail list).

    They are far from the first shower to try stuff like this: the first scammers started posting out fake invoices not long after Network Solutions first started charging money for .com/.net/.org domain registrations in the mid 1990s.

  15. Damn-Deal-Done says:

    I wrote fuck you in large letters and returned it in the return addressed envelope without a stamp.

    I also contacted Mail Boxes Etc to ask them what they plan to do about a scam operation using their mail boxes.

    Contact them here and let them know.

  16. Jane says:

    Nice idea on both counts, mate.

  17. Jess says:

    In Canada we have the same company (I’d imagine?), but same scam!
    Domain Registry of Canada, same looking letters even and have had clients actually pay the money and had to tell them they’ve been scammed.
    We have saved a few but it’s taken a few as well, those letters look real to clients who just don’t know!

  18. Chewi says:

    Hi all, This is a global problem (I am in Australia)… I have been receiving these letters for the past 12months but have always paid with my registrar…

    My cousin recently paid one of these and I am attempting to re-coup the costs on his behalf. Domain Registration of America have taken the money and not done anything about his domain… I have attempted requesting a refund but this is fallen on deaf ears.

    I will not stop until I have either re-coup the money or discredited them sufficiently to appease my discussed. They practice deception and theft and I am most disturbed that this can occur on a worldwide level.

    If anyone has any advise on how to tackle them please advise…



  19. Jane says:

    Hi Chewi,

    Pretty awful, huh? I don’t have any advice about getting the money back, although there are a fair few good attorneys out there who specialise in Internet law. Irony being, you’ll pay more than the initial loss, no matter what the outcome, I guess.

    I’m pleased by how many people come to this post after searching for the company’s name, as I (and others who’ve written about them) are hopefully responsible for many more people not being scammed out of their money.

    Good luck with everything :)

  20. Mike Wilson says:

    Hi Jane,

    Thanks for your excellent article. You’ve already noticed my article links back to you :) If it helps give your article an extra little bit of visibility. that in turn helps us all.

    Viva la internet revolution!

    Warm Regards,


  21. Jane says:

    Hey Mike,

    Definitely worth trying to keep as many people as possible away from falling for this scam.



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