Let’s say your car had some mechanical issues. Imagine your mechanic saying to you, “Why don’t you just sign over the title of this car to me and I will take care of all the things that need to be fixed. Once the repairs are all done, you can pick up the car and drive it home just like you still legally own it.”

You would laugh in his face! However, the same crazy thing is said everyday by web and hosting companies to clients about their very own domain name!

Every few months I run into a business owner that is shocked to learn that they don’t legally own their own domain. How could they not own their own name when they paid a web designer to create and host their site and renewed yearly hosting and domain registration fees?

Just like our crazy mechanic example above, what happens is that a web design or hosting service will register a domain name for a client as part of the setup charge to create a website. Clients feel like they don’t want to be bothered by the annoying details of registering a domain name. The problem is that when someone else registers a domain name for you, they typically will list themselves, not you, as the Registrant.

Why? Well, maybe it is out of stupidity, but most of the time it is because they want to hold clients hostage to using their service forever. Some companies will request high fees to switch ownership which is a frustrating and futile process! I know because I have had to deal with this very situation a few times.

Each and every domain name has a Registrant, Administrative, Technical, and Billing contact listed. It can be confusing to try to figure out who actually owns and has power over a domain name.

The Registrant is the legal owner of a domain name. You want to make sure that YOU are the Registrant. It is also critical that the mailing address, phone number, and e-mail address listed is yours as well!

The Administrative contact is the one who approves any requested changes to the domain, including changing the Registrant. This person is not the legal owner, but still has a lot of power.

If you discover that you are not the Registrant of your domain name, you can try to approach the person who is and hope they will transfer ownership. It is easy to do, but I have NEVER seen this actually work.

More than likely you will need to start the process of looking to rebrand yourself and register a new domain name. Go to a domain registration company like networksolutions.com and pick the domain you want. They will hold or “park” the name for you until you decide who you want to host your site.

Do you have any domain name horror stories to share?

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