I registered OptusPoo.com.au about a year ago ,to create an online community of people annoyed with Optus. The same time that a number of others got fed up with Optus and created BadOptus etc, to be followed by other bad Optus sites. I’d had shocking service from Optus (the guy told me “yeah I know how to fix it but I’m not going to tell you”) and was in the mood to shine some social media spotlight on to poor customer service in Australia.

There is no Optus branding, my site aggregates all discussions re: Optus on social networking sites. It auto updates with tweets from Twitter, blog posts, Facebook, whatevers. Good, bad, indifferent – all can be seen and discussed on OptusPoo. Later I added other companies just to be fair.

Thanks to the people who Tweeted me that they had hours of fun on the site. That was it’s intention…

auDA’s warning to me

Anyway, last week I get this letter from Vanessa Stanford at auDA,our domain name registrar in Australia:

auda 100593 Registrant – Notify Complaint (1)

Now while I agree that brandjacking domain names for illegal phishing (pretending to be Commonwealth Bank) or monetizing typing errors should be stopped, do you see what they are doing here? They are blocking all attempts by consumers who want to “talk back” about poor service and issues with companies. If we accept auDA’s premise, then Australians may not follow the rest of the world and have a voice against bad behaviour by Brands:

  • DellHell will become TheComputerStartingWithADHell. I wonder what Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do and journalist with The Guardian would think of auDA blocking BrandComplaint sites: after all he initiated s the DellHell backlash communities?
  • IHateIkea.com becomes IHateSwedishCompaniesWithPackFurniture
  • IhateStarbucks becomes IHateCoffeeFromThatCompanyFromSeattle.com
  • IhateMicrosoft becomes …?
  • Walmart Blows becomes … Ok, it would be Coles here no doubt.

Only it wouldn’t be Coles here. because auDA hide behind “no phishing, no typo” rulings to stamp out aggressively any anti-sentiment in play in the social spaces online.

My response to auDA

OptusPoo is a play on OptusZoo – no doubt about that – but not for the purposes for monetizing or even diverting traffic from OptusZoo. It is a straight out anti-branding site.  Which is how I responded to the PDF above:

Hi Vanessa,
OptusPoo.com.au is a satirical site gently poking fun at Optus by collating ALL tweets, blogs and social media mentions (good and bad) about Optus in one place. It is really clearly not an Optus site – it’s not even branded with an optus look and feel – and has so far provided hours (ok minutes 🙂 ) of amusement for my friends and followers on Twitter.

I would consider the removal of my site as an infringement of civil liberties and freedom of speech and therefore ask that you leave it in situ.
Cheers
Laurel

The challenge for companies is that if auDA doesn’t allow these discussions, they become a) harder to find for the company, b) hijacked by anti-branding forums and anti customer service sites that will charge the company to interact and c) offer no chance of turning the situation around like Dell did with DellHell (it’s now a collaborative site).

The Response from auDA

And here is Vanessa from auDA email response:

If you can’t be bothered reading the whole thing (including the “Dear BLANK”), it’s a proforma letter that hasn’t been filled in.  Which means I can ignore the Important To auDA Notice – the intended recipient isn’t actually named cos they couldn’t be arsed filling in my name or Reasons or anything else.

Prohibition of Misspelling Policy

Anyway I had a look at their Prohibition of Misspelling Policy:

3. POLICY PRINCIPLES

3.1 auDA’s objective in enforcing a prohibition on misspellings is to preserve the integrity of the .au domain space by discouraging “typosquatting”, whereby a person deliberately registers a misspelling of a popular domain name in order to divert trade or traffic.

NOPE. OptusPoo is simply a satirical reference to Optus poor service

4. SCOPE OF PROHIBITION

4.1 The prohibition on misspellings applies where:

a) the domain name is a misspelling of an entity, personal or brand name that does not belong to the registrant; and

b) the registrant has deliberately registered the misspelling in order to trade on the reputation of the other entity, person or brand.

This section talks about “trade” as monetizing misspellings, I’m assuming through Google Ads. Nope, I make no money from OptusPoo in fact it will probably send me broke. Ok, maybe not broke but I’m in the red.

Have a look at IkeaFans for a brand named but neutral site. I’m guessing that auDA will ignore “positive” brand sites by customers and only enforce those that have the temerity to use the web for marketing against a brand. The web was built for companies to promote stuff, and shout out about their products, not for customers to shout back their experiences, right? Riiiight.

This is a slippery slope. It means that any site deemed anti-brand might end up on Conroy’s filter list. We’ve already been told it’s illegal to discuss Euthanasia online. There’s no way the government will allow discussions naming and shaming Big Names. Cos you know, the only people who complain online about customer service are geeks and nutjobs. Like Jeff Jarvis, lecturer in journalism and author. Steve Wozniak of Apple computer (toyota prius problem). And me.

What do you think? Did auDA abuse it’s power by deliberately confusing satire/anti branding sites with those created for the purpose of phishing and making use of typos? Should we be allowed to say what we want about a brand  (which is actually the definition of “brand” – how the public perceives a company) or do we have to hide the discussions under a non-brand name, thereby diluting the discussion?

Or should I just register IHateOptus.com.au and defy them to turn that into a misspelling?  😛