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VeriSign nixes bogus messages

The domain-name registrar signs a court order agreeing to stop sending misleading messages to rivals' customers in an attempt to convince people to switch to its service.

VeriSign has agreed to stop sending false notices that tell customers of rival registrars their domain names will soon expire.

The company, which is the leading registrar of domain names, signed a federal court order Wednesday saying it will not send bogus messages warning customers that their domain names were about to expire and offering to sign up the Web addresses with VeriSign. The company also agreed not to send other official-looking notices that appear to be from the current registrar in an attempt to convince people to switch to VeriSign.

The order stems from a suit filed against VeriSign by Go Daddy Software, an upstart registrar that said a few hundred of its customers were tricked by the tactics.

Go Daddy executives cheered the ruling. "It puts an immediate end to VeriSign's deceptive mailings, and all domain-name owners will benefit from the agreement," Go Daddy CEO Bob Parsons said in a statement. "It is our hope that this order will send a strong message to anyone in this industry contemplating the use of such dubious marketing tactics to clean up their act."

Courts have cracked down on the practice, but this is believed to be the first time VeriSign has agreed to stop sending the messages to the customers of all of its rivals. In May, a judge in Maryland hearing a similar case brought by BulkRegister.com issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the tactic. However, Go Daddy said its customers continued to receive the notices even after that ruling, prompting it to file suit accusing the company of consumer fraud and trade-secret theft, among other things. The order in the Go Daddy suit broadens the ruling in the BulkRegister case.

Go Daddy is still pursuing its suit against VeriSign. The company is seeking refunds for consumers who transferred domain names, transfers of the addresses back to Go Daddy, and damages. VeriSign is also facing several other suits from rival registrars and customers who were affected by the misleading messages.

A VeriSign spokesman said he could not comment extensively on pending litigation. However, he did say the company stopped sending the notices out after the Maryland judge ordered it not to in May. Any notices customers received after that were already in the bulk mail pipeline, he said.