Companies with .com Internet addresses risk having their domain names deleted without warning because of mistakes by the US administrator.
Six UK companies lost all e-mail functions when their e-mail domain names were wantonly deleted without warning on Wednesday by US .com registrar Internic.
Chris Clough, director of communications for Internic, said that administering nearly one and a half million domain names meant mistakes would happen and he could not guarantee that other domain names would not get deleted even if they had been paid for.
He was unrepentant about the policy of deleting names without warning.
"Domain name registration is like any periodical system, we go through the system and delete those subscriptions that have not been paid," said Clough.
In April, British Telecom's bt.com address was one of a number of domain names deleted by Internic after a similar mix-up over administration. The company later apologised and said it would revamp its administrative systems.
The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) threatened to get the UK government involved at that time if Internic did not improve its service.
"It is poor quality service to customers. There is a lot of focus on the Internet and if you are trying to create and present an efficient and effective Internet industry, things like this do not help," said an ISPA spokesperson this week.
This will be of little consolation to the six companies which were unable to receive e-mail to their .com address for 48 hours this week.
"I am not impressed at all. We still have to assess the damage but our business practically runs on e-mail. I will be apoplectic with rage and consult counsel if this continues," said a senior manager at a marketing organisation that lost its domain.
Another company spent a whole day contacting Demon Internet and Internic to resolve the problem. A spokesperson said she was very angry with what had happened and would be contacting Internic to complain.
The deletions took place because an error in Internic's administration meant it believed the host ISP for the sites, Demon Internet, had not paid the registration fees for the domain names which it handles as part of its service.
In fact Demon Internet replied to Internic that the fees were up to date and the domains should not be cut off. Despite this, Internic shut down the domains without warning the affected companies.
"We informed them they had been paid but they cut the domains off anyway," said James Gardiner, marketing director at Demon Internet. "We will jump up and down and make a lot of noise of this happens again."
Gardiner said Demon Internet was recommending that customers take out a .co.uk domain name as well as their .com domain as a precautionary back-up.
"In all parts of IT you have to have some form of back-up and that includes the Internet. The UK definitely has a better system of domain name administration," he added.
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