When a domain name is registered, 5 contacts will come into being. This article outlines the legal contacts that can be nominated for every domain name registration. Knowing who can do what, and more importantly - who has the real power will help you to make clever decisions when you register a domain name.

The Powers in order of importance are:

  1. The Account Holder ("superpower")
  2. The Admin Contact ("decision maker")
  3. The Registrant ("owner")
  4. The Billing Contact
  5. The Technical Contact

The Account Holder is the only power that is NOT a legally recognised entity of the registered domain name, yet the Account Holder is the most powerful of the 5 contacts.

How the powers come in to being

When a domain name is registered, a contract is enacted online by the Registrar to the person/company that physically and actually performs the Domain Name Registration. This person/company will either create, or already have, an account with the Registrar. The person/company who is named on this account is the Account Holder.

It is the duty of the Account Holder, when performing the actual domain name registration, to complete the contract by agreeing to the various terms and conditions, making the first annual payment, AND filling out the name and contact details for the 4 legally nominated entities of the domain name - ie the Registrant ('Owner'), the Admin Contact, the Billing Contact, and the Technical Contact. (If the contacts are not specified then all contacts will default to the Account Holder).

The Account Holder is recognised by the Registrar as having access to the domain name account and is issued a username and password to this effect.

The Account Holder has the Power

It is at the discretion of the Account Holder whether or not to grant access rights to the domain name account to any or all of the 4 legally nominated entities of the domain name.

  • Access rights mean that a username and password is provided to access the domain name account.
  • Access does not necessarily confer the same "powers" as the Account Holder. For instance, a Technical Contact with access rights is usually only allowed to change nameserver information (see below). However this can vary on a Registrar by Registrar basis.

What the powers can do at a glance

The powers conferred on the Account Holder and Contacts are VERY IMPORTANT and will be explained fully in the next article in this series.

In the table shown below, you can assume that -

  • yes means this is their normal function
  • * means they can do this if Access Rights have been given by the Account Holder
# Change A/C Details Registrar Lock Control Change Nameservers Approve Transfer Pay the Registrar
Account Holder yes yes yes - -
Admin Contact * - * yes -
Registrant * - * - -
Billing Contact * - * - yes
Technical Contact - - * - -

In the next article in this series, we'll take a look at indepth look at all the powers of the various contacts.

Some Q&A

You do!

You are the Account Holder, the Admin Contact, the Registrant, the Technical Contact and the Billing Contact (unless you specify otherwise). It is quite safe to nominate your web developer as your Technical Contact, esp if you want their help to change nameservers. You have the power to change the Technical Contact (and any other) whenever you want. And since the domain name account also contains other information, such as nameserver information which is required to enact a change of webhost, no-one can dictate terms to you either.

It's impossible to say. There are accredited resellers (who sell directly for the Registrars) and casual resellers (who sell for the accredited resellers). Even accredited Resellers have to sell under the terms and conditions of their Registrars, so unless you read through their Domain Names Terms and Conditions you could be in for a nasty surprise.

This would be a fairly typical scenario:
  • Reseller is the Account Holder and has the username and password to access the domain name account
  • Reseller (or YOU) nominated as Admin Contact ('Decision Making')
  • YOU are nominated as the Registrant ('owner')
  • Reseller nominated as Billing Contact
  • Reseller nominated as Technical Contact

And it only takes one glance at the table above to work out that in this scenario you're not in control.

Tagged under: Domain Names Legals

Last updated: 15 Apr 2020