.EU Domain Names after Brexit

25 February 2021

Author: Kim McConville
Practice Area: Commercial Law
Sector: Brexit

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The UK’s exit from the European Union has provoked a range of uncertainties, but one question that is of particular significance to many businesses in a digitalised world, is: What happens to .EU domain names registered in the UK?

EU domain names are governed by the Regulation (EC) No. 733/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 April 2002 (the “Regulation”), as amended in part by the Regulation (EC) 2019/517 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 March 2019 (the “2019 Regulation”).

From the 1 January 2021, UK citizens who reside in the UK, and businesses, undertakings and organisations that are established in the UK, will not be entitled to register or renew .EU domain names. This is provided for under the Eligibility Criteria as set out in Article 3 of the 2019 Regulation, which was previously contained in Article 4(2) (b) of the Regulation. Under the 2019 Regulation, registration or renewal of a .EU domain will only be permissible for the following:

  • EU and EEA citizens, independently of their place of residence (for example this would apply to an Irish passport holder living in Northern Ireland);
  • Non-EU citizens residing in a member state;
  • Businesses established in the EU; and
  • Organisations established in the EU, if permitted under applicable national law.

Existing domain names

The European Registry of Internet Domains (“EURid”) had previously issued a timeline for their proposed notifications in respect of advising UK registrants of the removal of .EU domain names (the “Brexit Notice”). Under the Brexit Notice, UK registrants who held a .EU domain will have received an email on 1 October 2020 (with a follow up on 21 December 2020) from EURid to inform them that they will lose eligibility unless they can demonstrate that they are otherwise eligible in accordance with the legislative requirements (above). If registration details were not updated to reflect the criteria by 31 December 2020, the .EU domain name will have been “suspended” (from 1 January 2021). This will have undoubtedly caused serious ramifications for many businesses, with websites and emails now ceasing to function.

The suspension status remains in place until 30 June 2021, whereby registrations may be subsequently reinstated if you can provide evidence to meet the eligibility criteria. In the absence of reinstatement, UK registrants will again be notified by email on 1 July 2021, by the EURid, advising that the domain name will be moved to a “withdrawn” status, which effectively means that the domain name cannot support any service. Importantly, as of 1 January 2022 those domain names with a “withdrawn” status, formerly assigned to UK registrants, will be “revoked” and thereafter become available for general registration and use.

Options if the eligibility criteria cannot be satisfied

As aforementioned, an inability to meet the eligibility criteria will mean your .EU domain name will not be registered or renewed and any existing domain name will simply not work. However, in order to mitigate further disruption to your business and / or online presence, the below options should be considered as soon as possible, and not least, ahead of the revocation:

  • Transferring your current .EU domain to another domain, for example .com, .co.uk, .net or .org. and seek advice from the registrar in relation to informing customers about your transfer, optimising your search engine and redirecting the traffic to your new page.
  • Seeking advice from your local registrar to understand the terms of your contractual agreement and ascertain whether it provides any recourse in the event of withdrawal of revocation of a .EU registration; and
  • Developing a migration plan for services and functions that your .EU domain, website or associated email address is linked to or supports.

*This information is for guidance purposes only and does not constitute, nor should be regarded, as a substitute for taking legal advice that is tailored to your circumstances.

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