Registrants unable to renew their domain names when they expire may not lose them, following a decree from ICANN today.
The organization has declared the coronavirus a “natural disaster” and invoked part of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement that permits registrars to keep hold of domains that have come to the end of their post-expiration renewal period.
Under the RAA, registrars have to delete domains a maximum of 45 days after the reg period expires, unless there are “extenuating circumstances” such as an ongoing UDRP case, lawsuit or technical stability dangers.
There’s no accounting for natural disasters in the contract, but ICANN has the discretion to name any “other circumstance as approved specifically by ICANN” an extenuating circumstance. That’s what it’s done here.
It’s invoked this provision once before, following Hurricane Maria in late 2017.
ICANN said that policies to specifically protect domains in the event of natural disasters should be considered.
The new coronavirus exception applies to all registrars in all gTLDs, although implementation will vary by registrar.
The announcement follows Verisign’s announcement last week that it is waiving its registry-level restore fee for .com and .net domains until June 1.