On 1 October 2020, EURid, the registry responsible for the .eu top level domain, started contacting registrants in the UK where the registration data held by EURid suggests that the registrant is no longer eligible to hold a .eu domain name. Ineligible registrations will be suspended on 1 January 2021.
We look at who can hold a .eu domain name, the potential consequences of losing a .eu domain and what you can do if you wish to retain it.
Who can hold a .eu domain name?
A .eu domain name can only be held if:
- you are an EU/EEA citizen (regardless of where you actually live)
- you are non an EU/EEA citizen, but are resident in the EU/EEA
- you are an organisation, business or undertaking that is established in the EU/EEA.
At the end of the post-Brexit transition period, organisations established in the UK, but not in the EU/EEA and UK citizens who are not resident in the EU/EEA will no longer be eligible to hold a .eu domain name.
What is the impact of losing a .eu domain name?
For many organisations, the .eu domain will simply redirect to the organisation's main website, and therefore the impact may be minimal.
However, others may have a specific site targeted at the EU/EEA. This may cause some practical issues. For example, if a US company runs its EU operations out of the UK, but with a .eu domain, then it would lose that .eu domain on 1 January 2021.
If organisations use a .eu domain name for email addresses, and the organisation does not meet the .eu eligibility criteria, then staff will need to be migrated to new email addresses. As the .eu domain name will be suspended from the organisation on 1 January 2021, they will not be able to put in place email redirects.
Any .eu domain name that is suspended on 1 January 2021 will be mothballed for 12 months. After the initial suspension on 1 January, if the registrant has not demonstrated its eligibility by 31 March 2021, then the domain name will be withdrawn. It will then be revoked and available for others to register from 1 January 2022. That may lead to confusion and potential trade mark infringement issues, as it will not be possible for a UK organisation to make defensive registrations to guard against cyber-squatting.
What can I do if I want to continue holding a .eu domain name?
Registrants have until 31 December 2020 to demonstrate their eligibility if they wish to avoid any disruption to their registration. If you think you meet the eligibility criteria then you should contact your domain registrar to update your details.
If your organisation does not meet the eligibility criteria, but you still want to retain a .eu domain, then there may be other options. For example, if you have an EU/EEA subsidiary, then you could transfer the .eu registration to that entity.
Alternatively, if you have a distributor or agent in the EU or the EEA, then you could have the domain transferred to the distributor or agent. You will, however, want to ensure that you properly address trade mark issues and what happens upon termination of the arrangement.
More information: UK Government Guidance on .eu domain names
If you would like to discuss your organisation's use of a .eu domain or options for maintaining your .eu domain, please get in touch with me or your usual Brodies contact.
This post was updated on 27 November 2020, to reflect updates to EURid's guidance.