On 3 June 2020, the European Registry of Internet Domains ("EURid") updated its "Brexit notice" (the "Notice"), providing further clarity on who can hold .eu domain names once the UK's Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020 (the "Transition Period").
Which registrants are affected?
In its Notice, EURid, a non-profit organisation appointed by the European Commission to oversee the operation of the .eu top-level domain name, outlines that the following organisations and individuals will no longer be eligible to hold a .eu domain name after the end of the Transition Period:
- United Kingdom organisations established in the United Kingdom but not in the European Union ("EU") or the European Economic Area ("EEA");
- United Kingdom citizens who are not a resident of an EEA Member State; and
- United Kingdom residents who are not EU citizens.
The Notice states EURid will not allow any new registrations or transfers of .eu domain names for those types of organisations and persons identified above from 1 January 2021. EU citizens who are residing in the United Kingdom remain eligible to hold a .eu domain name once the Transition Period has ended, but will be required to update their registration data to evidence their EU citizenship.
What happens next?
EURid have set out the following timeline for contacting existing UK registrants of .eu domain names ahead of the Transition Period:
- 1 October 2020 – EURid will email all UK registrants and their registrars to explain that from 1 January 2021 they shall lose their eligibility to hold any .eu domain name(s), unless they are able to update registration details to demonstrate compliance with the .eu regulatory framework (examples of which are outlined in the Notice).
- 21 December 2020 – EURid will send a second email to all UK registrants and their registrars who have not yet demonstrated continued compliance with the .eu domain name eligibility criteria.
- 1 January 2021 (as of 00:00:00 CET) – EURid will notify all UK registrants and their registrars by email that their .eu domain name(s) are no longer compliant with the .eu regulatory framework and are consequently withdrawn (which effectively prohibits the domain from functioning).
- 1 January 2022 (as of 00:00:00 CET) – exactly 12 months from the date on which ineligible .eu domain names are withdrawn, these domains will become available for general registration by eligible registrants.
The Notice also states that if the Transition Period is extended in accordance with Article 132 of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, the dates shall be adapted accordingly.
Other domain names potentially affected
The .eu domain name is not the only domain name with eligibility criteria in the EEA. UK registrants holding EURid's other top-level domain names, such as .ею and .ευ, will also be affected once the Transition Period ends. Similarly, the .fr (France) and .it (Italy) domain names have EEA residency requirements and it is currently unclear what will happen to UK registrants holding these domain names at the end of the Transition Period. Therefore, organisations and individuals should consider how they will meet the eligibility requirements after the end of the Transition Period.
EURid's latest update is undoubtedly an important consideration for UK registrants who hold .eu domain names. According to the latest progress report from EURid for Q1 2020, more than 142,000 .eu, .ею and .ευ domain names are held by UK registrants (a 24.4% drop from Q1 2019). It will be important for these registrants to consider reviewing their domain name portfolio and adopting appropriate action to ensure value attributed to the affected domains can be maintained once the Transition Period ends, for instance by transferring the affected domain names to an EEA-based subsidiary outside the UK prior to the end of the Transition Period.