The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered a Cambridge-based company to stop sending emails implying that it is accredited to offer .eu domain names.
.EU Registry Services claimed it was the operator of the .eu suffix, which is actually the responsibility of a non-profit organisation, the European Registry of Internet Domain Names (Eurid).
"We are proud to be operating the internet's most important regional domain name," stated an email sent out by the company.
But although the .eu suffix was approved by the European Commission in March 2002 it is not yet live. And, according to a Eurid spokeswoman, it is unlikely to be until the autumn or winter of next year.
As a result, no registrars have been accredited as sellers; registrars do not know the criteria that they will have to meet to be able to bid for this status and the rules for operating the suffix have not been finalised.
The ASA said in a statement: "Because they [ .EU Registry Services] had not substantiated their claims, the Authority told the advertisers not to repeat the email and reminded them of their responsibility to hold substantiation to support advertised claims."
Eurid warns people not to pay upfront fees for an .eu domain name, as pre-registration does not guarantee they will get it.
The organisation said: "We have received many complaints about .EU Registry Services. This company has no relationship with Eurid and is not an accredited .eu registrar."
.EU Registry Services, along with its sister firm, DotComAvenue, is being investigated over sales of .eu domains.
Eurid said legitimate registration for the suffix would not be possible until 2004.
The organisation's spokeswoman explained: "We hope to have registrars appointed by the summer of next year so they can pre-register companies and trademarks for the sunrise period [the time given for trademark holders, companies and public bodies to register their names before the general public].
"But we have to have the rules in place first and these will start to be examined by the European Commission in January or February next year."
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