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People with experience at registrars and working with registries, especially for newer gTLDs:

I work with reselling domains using a large non-GoDaddy registrar and their API to automate via our website.

We don't resell premium domains as a general rule for a variety of reasons.

In the past couple years I've noticed a few key newer TLDs have taken some standard domains that our customers have registered, and upon renewal they are now marked as premium with a higher renewal price and a much higher restore price.

Hey, I'm all for premium and aftermarket domains and free market competition... with rules. So pulling a surprise gotcha on resellers and customers seems super shady and contrary to the spirit of ICANN rules about posting clear pricing for renewing and restoring domains for a TLDs.

Anyone in the industry have any experience with this and how much ICANN, registrars and registries care about this?

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Pricing issues are complex and by not being a registrar yourself and just a consumer of some registrar API you are not directly inside all the details on what happens between the registry and the registrar. So the first question would be: are you sure that the price differences you see are really coming from the registry and not from the registrar you use? Note that ICANN contracts have more rules on pricing for registries than for registrars.

Because I am not 100% sure, but I am right now doubtful that a registry can change a domain category (premium or not) when it is registered, for this simple technical reason: in gTLDs, names are auto-renewed, if the registrar does nothing (does not send an EPP domain:delete command) then the name is renewed by the registry forever, and of course billed. However there is a specific protection, through a specific EPP extension called the "fee extension", to make sure a registrar and a registry agree on the price of an operation (typically a registration, but could be as well a renewal or a transfer) before making it. If the renewal is explicit by the registrar, then the registry could refuse it until the registrar provides in its payload the specific data that shows it acknowledges the specific price. But during auto-renewal, by definition, there is no command send by registrar hence no way for it to know the price of the operation.

Otherwise, the contractual rules you are seeking about are §2.10 (b) of ICANN-Registry contract at https://newgtlds.icann.org/sites/default/files/agreements/agreement-approved-31jul17-en.pdf which states:

With respect to renewal of domain name registrations, Registry Operator shall provide each ICANN accredited registrar that has executed the Registry-Registrar Agreement for the TLD advance written notice of any price increase (including as a result ofthe elimination of any refunds, rebates, discounts, product tying, Qualified Marketing Programs or other programs which had the effect of reducing the price charged to registrars) of no less than one hundred eighty (180) calendar days.

and (c):

In addition, Registry Operator must have uniform pricing for renewals of domain name registrations (“Renewal Pricing”). For the purposes of determining Renewal Pricing, the price for each domain registration renewal must be identical to the price of all other domain name registration renewals in place at the time of such renewal, and such price must take into account universal application of any refunds, rebates, discounts, product tying or other programs in place at the time of renewal. The foregoing requirements of this Section 2.10(c) shall not apply for (i) purposes of determining Renewal Pricing if the registrar has provided Registry Operator with documentation that demonstrates that the applicable registrant expressly agreed in its registration agreement with registrar to higher Renewal Pricing at the time of the initial registration of the domain name following clear and conspicuous disclosure of such Renewal Pricing to such registrant,

[..]

The parties acknowledge that the purpose of this Section 2.10(c) is to prohibit abusive and/or discriminatory Renewal Pricing practices imposed by Registry Operator without the written consent of the applicable registrant at the time of the initial registration of the domain and this Section 2.10(c) will be interpreted broadly to prohibit such practices.

The emphasis is mine on the last paragraph, because my understanding (but do not take my word for granted) of this paragraph is clearly to forbid changing the price of an existing domain after its registration, if not agreed upon at the beginning (except if the registry change the base prices of all its domains, this is another case).

Note that ICANN FAQ at https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/domain-name-renewal-expiration-faqs-2018-12-07-en has a question exactly like yours but the answer lacks details (except pointing out, again, that you might have to look more at the registrar than the registry):

Why is my domain name's renewal price so much more than the initial registration fee?

It is up to your registrar to set their own prices, terms and conditions. It is advisable to review your prospective registrar's prices, terms and conditions for renewals before registering your domain name. A common practice with many goods and services, including domain name registrations, is to offer promotions for new customers, which is why your initial registration fee may be less than the cost to renew after your initial registration period.

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  • I'll just call them out by name: .club is one of the TLDs that does this. After much research I found that they update premium domains twice a year and post here: nic.club/premiumtierregistrations and some of the domains that were changed from standard to a premium level were ones already registered that I'm managing. My autorenewal with our registrar reflected the higher renewal price. Thankfully renewal's only higher by a few dollars, not the hundreds of dollars needed to register new, or the much higher Restore/RGP price, which causes me the most concern. – domdetailer Aug 26 at 19:48
  • The page you quote says: "IMPORTANT: All Tier Premium domains renew at the general availability wholesale price of $8.05. ". For me the premium tiers apply only at registration. – Patrick Mevzek Aug 26 at 20:28
  • Ahh so it’s my registrar increasing the renewal price, not the registry. Nice. I’m curious to see if that’s true of the restore price too... thanks for catching that! – domdetailer Aug 28 at 3:04
  • You can try contacting the registry directly, but they have to stay neutral among registrars. – Patrick Mevzek Aug 28 at 3:18

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