On 1 October 2020, the European Registry of Internet Domains (“EURid”) contacted UK holders of .eu domain names with the stark warning that they would lose their .eu domain name on 1 January 2021  unless they were able to update their registration details to show compliance with the .eu regulatory framework. The .eu regulatory framework sets out who can hold a .eu domain name, namely:

  • EU/EEA citizens;
  • Residents in the EU/EEA;
  • Organisations established in the EU/EEA.

On the 1 January 2021 many domain names owned by UK registrants had their domain names suspended as they no longer meet the eligibility requirements to hold a .eu domain name. These organisations and individuals include:

  • UK organisations established in the UK, but not in the EU/EEA;
  • UK citizens who are not a resident of an EEA Member State; and
  • UK residents who are not EU citizens.

The withdrawal of a .eu domain, may have had a significant impact for some businesses. For instance, those exclusively using a .eu domain without a redirection facility to a main website lost all traffic on 1 January 2021 – no doubt resulting in missed business opportunities and potential damage to reputation.

Issues will also have arisen if a .eu domain was being used as the basis for email addresses – allocating new email addresses to staff, and informing customers and business associates, is expensive and a time consuming exercise.

As it stands, any .eu domain held by an ineligible UK organisation or individual is now officially ‘suspended' until 31 March 2021. A ‘suspended' domain can no longer support any service, but may be reinstated if the owner's registration data is updated to meet the eligibility criteria set by the .eu regulatory framework.

The recently announced ‘suspended' status effectively gives a 3 month grace period for an affected owner to update their registration details to show compliance with the .eu regulatory framework and request reactivation of their suspended .eu domain.

According to EURid, there are 81,000 suspended .eu domains, and many of the owners of these domains may have abandoned their .eu domain. However, a substantial number will wish to take advantage of the grace period and take remedial steps to recover their .eu domain. For any organisations or individuals with substantive links to the EU/EEA, it may be possible to show compliance with the .eu regulatory framework. These organisations and individuals are:

  • Organisations legally established in one of the EU or EEA Member States; or
  • UK citizens who are resident in an EU or EEA Member State; or
  • UK residents with EU citizenship.

It is important to remember that if you do believe you fall into one of the above categories, you must actively update your registration details by contacting your domain registrar by 31 March 2021 – failure to do so will result in the domain achieving a ‘withdrawn' status on 1 April 2021. At this point, it seems that there is no mechanism in place to apply for reinstatement of the domain.

‘Withdrawn' .eu domains will then be irretrievably lost to their current owners and become available again for general registration by eligible registrants from 1 January 2022. Therefore, if you are unable to reactivate a withdrawn domain, it is important to have a strategy in place to monitor the registration of such domains in order to quickly identify infringement of IP rights.

For individuals, the residency and citizenship eligibility criteria are easily understood. For organisations, there may be options such as the transfer of a .eu domain to a subsidiary in the EU/EEA, or even the transfer of a domain name to an acceptable EU/EEA entity. We work with a number of domain name management companies to help support our clients with domain name management. Should you have any questions, please get in touch and we will be happy to assist.

If you are the proprietor of a .eu domain that is currently 'suspended', and believe you may satisfy the eligibility criteria, please take steps now to ensure you meet the deadline of 31 March 2021.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.