Domain Auction Acts of Impropriety
An important discussion continues to be had at Mike Berken’s blog regarding companies who participate in their own drop auctions. The short summary is that Mike bid on (and won) 23 drop auctions at Tucows, only to be told later that the names were part of Tucows’ portfolio. Apparently these names were accidentally listed during Tucows’ transition from their auction platform to Afternic’s.
These domain names were taken out of Mike’s account, after he paid for them, and the only compensation he received was an apology and a refund. Nothing was given to Mike to compensate him for his time searching for these domain names and his time bidding on them. Mike is no spring chicken when it comes to the domain industry, and judging by the quality of names Mike has and continues to purchase, these were probably significantly valued domain names.
The conversation has turned into one about ethics, and the discussion moved to whether employees should be prohibited from bidding on their company’s auctions. While I think it is necessary that domain companies hire people who know the domain industry, I think employees should be prohibited from bidding on their own company’s auctions – or on domain names where their company could benefit from the results (ie: registrar who outsources domain drops but profits based on the final sales price).
Denying a company employee access to various stats or proxy bid information for a domain name isn’t the remedy. As long as there is the appearance of a possible conflict of interest, there is a problem. As domain investors, we could be getting screwed without even knowing it.
I think this is a conversation that needs to be had, and all domain auction houses and drop companies should pay attention. Check out the discussion on Mike’s Blog when you get a chance.
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