Freeparking - your marketing methods are disgusting.

Surprised I didn't put this out there earlier...

Freeparking (a large domain name registrar in New Zealand) have been using Cyber Security for marketing purposes, pushing the .kiwi tld.

Today I got the following within (yet another) marketing plug from them:

"Cyber threats are on the rise in New Zealand and many small to medium business are leaving themselves vulnerable by not securing the core domains recognised in New Zealand. At Freeparking, we want to help you protect your brand which is why we had these domains put on hold for you - but time is running out, your .KIWI domains are expiring soon, so ensure you claim and renew your domains now!"

What they actually did was pre-emptively register the .kiwi variations of domain names registered by their customers, a year ago, and the annual renewal is coming due.

For example, I own jazzed.co.nz and it's registered at Freeparking; until this occurred I was a loyal Freeparking customer (onceuponatime I had ties to them through work). About a year ago I was offered the .kiwi version of my existing name (free or very cheap, I can't remember right now). In order to do this, they'd actually registered the name pre-emptively, in order to be able to offer it to me on their terms:

blakjak@broadside:~$ whois -h whois.nic.kiwi jazzed.kiwi | grep Registrant Registry Registrant ID: 226987-KIWI Registrant Name: Domain Administrator Registrant Organization: Umbrellar Limited t/a Freeparking Registrant Street: Level 2, 2 Devon Street East Registrant City: New Plymouth Registrant State/Province: Taranaki Registrant Postal Code: 4310 Registrant Country: NZ Registrant Phone: +64.67572881 Registrant Phone Ext: Registrant Fax: +64.67572883 Registrant Fax Ext: Registrant Email: domain.claims@freeparking.co.nz

Whilst I initially simply ignored the unwanted marketing emails (except, when I received them multiple times, to complain about it!) I did subsequently note (when it was brought up by a colleague on a mailing list that the same thing had happened to him), that (a year ago now), they'd actually registered the name. Dates per whois:

Updated Date: 2016-11-23T15:57:50Z
Creation Date: 2016-11-18T15:54:36Z
Registry Expiry Date: 2017-11-18T15:54:36Z

By registering the name themselves - essentially taking advantage of their position as a registrar to obtain names promptly and inexpensively - they prevented me from registering the name elsewhere, with the registrar of my choice, and essentially forced me to deal with them if I wanted the name.
Whether or not that was still cost-effective, the point really is that they robbed me of the choice.

... even if I put aside my concerns about Freeparking's really disappointing behavior as a registrar, I also have a fundamental problem with them invoking 'Cyber Threats' as a reason for potential buyers to register the name. The argument that failing to register the name constitutes a threat, is a joke... we all know that short of pre-emptively registering and squatting on variations of domain names, that it's a free-for-all and we should continue to work with the names that we are known as, and validate comms that originate from any new / unexpected name. But instead of giving good advice, Freeparking are capitalising on peoples fears and attempting to use Cyber Security as a marketing tool!

I'm very selective about the business I refer to Freeparking. This whole thing makes my skin crawl, to be fair.