According to the draft of new Generic Top-level Domains (gTLD) contracts for Section 7.3:
Price controls have been removed for 2008 in favor of the transparent pricing model outlined above.
Section 3.2.b) of the .com registry agreement states:
ICANN shall not apply standards, policies, procedures or practices arbitrarily, unjustifiably, or inequitably and shall not single out Registry Operator for disparate treatment unless justified by substantial and reasonable cause.
In my opinion, VeriSign (and other existing gTLD operators) are almost being invited to ask for their contracts to be amended to get the "same treatment" as new gTLDs in regards to the elimination of pricing caps. This once again could re-open the issue of tiered pricing that most have fought very hard against in order to protect registrants.
I believe the language of these proposed new gTLD contracts needs to have hard caps in place to protect existing gTLD registrants. New gTLDs are not effective substitutes for existing gTLDs, and thus "competition" isn't going to keep VeriSign's pricing power in check. Even with a 10-year transition period, it would shock the conscience if VeriSign was permitted to arbitrarily and unilaterally raise the renewal price of .coms to millions or billions of dollars per year (say $1 billion/yr for Google.com, $10 million/yr for Hotels.com, $50 million/yr for Cars.com, $30 million/yr for Games.com, or whatever the market would bear), effectively re-auctioning the entire list of premium domain names to the highest bidder, removing the existing registrant and replacing things with .tv style pricing.
Alternatively, all existing gTLD operators need to agree to language, before any new gTLDs are approved, that make explicit that the hard caps cannot be removed irregardless of whatever happens in other gTLDs.
By George Kirikos, President, Leap of Faith Financial Services Inc.
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