Be careful as Brexit could cause you to lose your .eu domain!
.eu domains are reserved for companies, organisations and private individuals based in the EU. With Brexit, British companies and residents lose the right to use their .eu domain. And that may happen as early as 30 March 2019. So, what is going on? And what concrete steps can you take?
European Commission regulation on .eu domains
In March 2018, the European Commission already ruled on the consequences that Brexit would have on .eu domain holders. “As of the withdrawal date, undertakings and organisations that are established in the United Kingdom but not in the EU and natural persons who reside in the United Kingdom will no longer be eligible to register .eu domain names or, if they are .eu registrants, to renew .eu domain names registered before the withdrawal date.” (EURid: Brexit Notice)
This measure applies to all domain holders (registrants) with a GB (Great Britain) or GI (Gibraltar) country code. In concrete terms, if you own a .eu domain and your company is based in the United Kingdom, you will no longer be allowed to own that domain name after Brexit. Even if you are an EU citizen (Dutch, Belgian...) living in the UK, your right to keep your .eu domain name will expire.
Brexit – two scenarios
No final decision has yet been taken on the conditions for British withdrawal from the EU. Many questions are thus left unresolved. Will the customs union be maintained or not? What about trade agreements? Some agreements have already been concluded, but they have been rejected in Great Britain. Meanwhile, new proposals are made every day.
But time is pressing. Therefore, all parties involved have currently developed two scenarios: Brexit with a negotiated agreement, or no-deal Brexit. EURid, the registrar of .eu domain names, has also developed two scenarios, which can be adjusted (if necessary) depending on the outcome of negotiations. The important thing, however, is that you take all possible precautions and explore all possible alternatives now.
You own a .eu domain and your company is based in the UK (or you live there)... After Brexit, you will no longer be allowed to keep it – and that may happen as early as March! So, find out what to do by reading this quick guide.
Scenario 1: with no-deal Brexit, you will lose your domain as early as 2019
If the United Kingdom leaves the EU on 30 March 2019 without an agreement (no-deal), the following measures will apply to .eu domains as early as 30 March 2019:
New registrations will only be accepted if the registrant is a citizen of the EU. If your contact details contain the GB/GI country code, you will no longer be allowed to register a new .eu domain.
Existing registrations for which the registrant has the GB/GI country code in the WHOIS database will have to update their contact details to a legal entity in one of the EU Member States by 30 May 2019 at the latest. In concrete terms, this means that if you are in this situation, you will receive a notification informing you of this measure. You can then either update the contact details or transfer your domain name to an EU registrant. Since Combell does not charge any fees for transferring a domain name, we recommend the second option.
Please note: during the period between 30 March and 30 May 2019, it will be impossible to transfer the domain to a GB/GI registrant. Automatic renewal will also be impossible.
After 30 May 2019, .eu domains whose holders are still registered with a .GB or .GI address will have a WITHDRAWN status. This means that your domain name will be removed from the zone. Active services such as websites or e-mail will no longer be supported on the domain – meaning you will no longer be able to send or receive e-mail using the domain, or have the domain redirect visitors to your website. The record will remain in the .eu registry database, so you can reactivate your domain as soon as the criteria are satisfied.
After 30 March 2020 (12 months after the UK's withdrawal), all non-compliant .eu domains will have a REVOKED status. This means that your domain will become available for registration (AVAILABLE status) again, on a “first-come, first-served” basis. If your company has built its reputation with its .eu web domain, this will be quite a challenge, as you will have to build your reputation all over again, from scratch!
Scenario 2: Brexit with a transition period agreement
If the negotiators succeed in concluding an agreement setting out the terms of Brexit, the UK will leave the EU on 31 December 2020 (or later, if negotiators so agree).
In this case, the following schedule will apply:
From 21 January 2021, any new registrations requested by a registrant with a GB/GI country code will no longer be allowed.
Existing registrations for which the registrant has the GB/GI country code in the WHOIS database will have to update their contact details to a legal entity in one of the EU Member States by 2 March 2021 at the latest. Domain holders who are in this situation will be notified by e-mail.
From 2 March 2021, all .eu domains whose holders are still registered with a .GB or .GI address will have a WITHDRAWN status (see above). If they still do not comply on 1 January 2022, they will have the REVOKED status.
The Brexit of .eu domain names in a nutshell
|Scenario 1: no-deal Brexit||Scenario 2: Brexit with withdrawal agreement|
|UK Withdrawal||30 March 2019||31 December 2021|
|companies and natural persons with a GB or GI country code will no longer be allowed to register a new .eu domain.||From 30/3/2019||From 21/1/2021|
|companies and natural persons with a GB or GI country code holding a .eu domain are no longer allowed to own their domain and the registration of this domain will no longer be renewed.||From 30/3/2019||From 21/1/2021|
|EU domains still owned by GB or GI-based companies or citizens will have a WITHDRAWN status.||From 30/5/2019||From 2/3/2021|
|EU domains still owned by GB or GI-based companies or citizens will have a REVOKED status, which will later become AVAILABLE.||From 30/3/2020||From 21/1/2022|
Prepare for the worst-case scenario
Make sure you do not get caught off guard! March will be here sooner than you think. We therefore recommend that you take all these precautions now:
- Find an entity that is established or resides in the EU – a citizen living there, or a company established there. This can be a branch of your own company, your accounting firm (or a branch of it), your web development agency (or a branch of it) or any other organisation you know you can trust.
- Make clear (preferably written) agreements with this entity about the ownership of the domain name, and designate this entity as your representative for your domain name.
If the date of Brexit is confirmed as above and you have received the notification from Combell and/or EURid, you can take action. Here are the options:
- Update the WHOIS information so that the registrant no longer has a GB or GI country code address. You can easily do that yourself, in my.combell.com. Go to My Products > Domain names, select the desired .eu domain and click on Manage. Then, go to Registrant > Update Details. Make the necessary changes, and click on Update Details to confirm. This procedure is free of charge.
- Transfer your domain to a citizen residing in the EU or an EU-based company. Follow the steps described in our “How to transfer my domain name” guide. With Combell, transferring a domain name is free of charge.
Is this not considered fraud? Not if you have a clear agreement with the entity that represents you. Even now, it is very common for a web developer to request a domain name on behalf of the customer for whom he is building a website. And that is perfectly legal!
Is your .eu domain name not registered with Combell? Then, please contact the registrar (the company where you registered the domain name) and ask what steps to take. Maybe this is the right time to transfer your domain name to Combell?
On the EURid website, you can read further news about .EU domains and Brexit.