What is happening?
It is important for businesses to be prepared for complications arising from the UK becoming a “third country” to the EU post-Brexit. One area of complexity relates to businesses based in the UK who hold .eu domain names. The European Commission (“EC”) have issued a Notice setting out the position with regards to .eu domain names, which will have effect as of 30 March 2019 (the “Withdrawal Date”).
The Notice details some important changes to the eligibility requirements for .eu domain names post-Brexit that will directly impact both UK businesses and residents who currently have or intend to register a .eu domain.
The new eligibility requirements for .eu domain names are as follows:
i) undertakings (i.e. companies) must be registered within the EU (which will not include the UK post-Brexit);
ii) organisations must be established within the EU; or
iii) individuals must reside within the EU.
In addition to this, such undertakings, organisations and individuals will not be able to bypass registration or renewal by contacting accredited EU registrars to process such requests. In other words, if you don’t live or have a registered entity in an EU member state, you won’t be able to operate a .eu domain.
At present, EU citizens residing in the UK with a registered .eu domain name may become ineligible to operate those domains from the Withdrawal Date
What should you do?
Several commentators have made previous assertions that .eu domains may be revoked with immediate effect Post Brexit. However, the EC has confirmed that they will allow a two-month transitionary period during which holders of existing .eu domains can put in place arrangements to transfer them to qualifying persons within the EU. We have outlined some possible scenarios below. Businesses should take steps now to put in place contingency plans to deal with any .eu domains they currently use.
If the UK leaves the EU on the Withdrawal Date with no deal, there will be a two-month transition period expiring on 30 May 2019 which will give registrants the opportunity to demonstrate their compliance with the updated eligibility requirements.
During the transition period, the following actions may be taken:
– Changing contact data on the domain name in question
– Making changes to either the DNSSEC or name server
– Transferring the domain name to a non- ‘third country’ registrant
– Deleting the domain name altogether
UK leaves the EU after a planned transition period ending on 31 December 2020
In the event that the UK leaves the EU following a planned transition period ending on 31 December 2020, or at a later date if the transition period is extended pursuant to article 132 of the Withdrawal Agreement, and no further provisions around .eu domains are made, from 1 January 2021, no UK person will be able to register .eu domain names.
Persons based in the UK with .eu domain names will have until 2 March 2021 to demonstrate their compliance as detailed above, or transfer their domain names to an EU person.
Businesses holding.eu domains should decide now whether they want to keep them, and if they wish to retain them, take steps to qualify for the new rules. Businesses should pay attention to further notices, particularly if a deal is agreed with the EU which delays Brexit or extends the transition period.