I often receive emails or letters from small organisations that need help or tell me that my advice has not brought about a resolution.
The confusion arises because they fall outside the remit of the consumer guidelines and laws. So I was unsure whether I could help Alan Willison, headmaster of Skyswood primary school in St Albans. But I decided to give it a go.
"We purchased the domain name, www.skyswood.com, for our school from Lycos just over two years ago. We paid for five years and use it to point to our school website which is paid for by the Local Education Authority. This domain name is easier for parents to remember," Mr Willison told me.
But a parent told him in the middle of October that it no longer worked, because Lycos had failed to re-register the name. Contacting Lycos didn't help.
"They seem unable/unwilling to reinstate the service. They suggested I register another domain name such as Skyswood.net and applied for a refund. But that means lots of extra work getting new stationary, pamphlets, etc," he said.
Considering how cash-strapped our schools are I decided first to try to get the school its domain name back before the refund. Reregistering can be expensive so I contacted domain name registrar 1&1 Internet to see what could be done.
"The domain was purchased through Lycos but was in fact registered through Network Solutions. It expired on 29/11 and entered 'redemption' in November," a 1&1 spokesman told me.
"This period usually lasts 30 days and gives the registrar the chance to redeem the name if it was deleted by accident."
Lycos was the middleman but seems to have failed to re-register the domain. As Mr Willison was not notified, it is unlikely he was put down as the administration contact. But he should have still been contacted and warned the domain was about to expire.
But 1&1 told me that he could re-register the domain. "Mr Willison can wait and register the domain when it is in the public domain in a few days," said the spokesman.
"That carries the risk of it being snapped up by someone else. It is possible for it to be bought out of redemption for a £50-odd fee from Network Solutions."
Mr Willison will be able to retrieve the name and I have asked Lycos to refund the remaining three years for which he had paid. I am waiting to hear back from Lycos and will let you know when I do.
I am only able to do this because he paid for the domain name himself and not through the school, which makes him the consumer. But anyone who buys a domain name should always ensure they are put down as the admin contact.
A consumer is defined as "any natural person who is acting for purposes which are outside his business". A business or organisation is therefore not a natural person.
I was less fortunate with my next attempt to solve a problem, this time for a registered charity, Ontowork.
William Coyle felt he had been unfairly treated by Dabs. "I purchased a printer from Dabs but I had ordered the wrong product. I had to pay a restocking fee of £46.88 plus the return delivery charge," he told me. He wanted to know why.
James Hutchinson, a consumer lawyer at Beale and Company, said: "A registered charity would not come under the definition of a consumer for the purposes of the Distance Selling Regulations. It is likely that Dabs' terms and conditions of sale specifically refer to restocking fees."
Dabs has done nothing wrong and is fully within its rights to charge this fee. I did ask Dabs to show some Christmas spirit towards the charity and refund the restocking fee.
Sadly, even in the season of goodwill, Dabs felt unable to waive the fee. "The re-stocking fee charged does not actually cover all of our costs in this case [it's a 40kg printer] therefore we are unable to waive it," a spokeswoman told me.
Cotton seedling freezes to death as Chang'e-4 shuts down for the Moon's 14-day lunar night
Fortnite easily out-earns PUBG, Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2 in 2018
Meteor showers as a service will be visible for about 100 kilometres in all directions
Saturn's rings only formed in the past 100 million years, suggests analysis of Cassini space probe data
New findings contradict conventional belief that Saturn's rings were formed along with the planet about 4.5 billion years ago