Help Us Shape The Internet's Future

Contracted Party Agreements Background


  • A registry operator of a top-level domain (TLD) must enter a contract (i.e. Registry Agreement - RA) with ICANN in order to operate and maintain a generic TLD (gTLD).
  • Registrars that offer domain name registration services with a direct access to TLD registries are also required to obtain accreditation from ICANN (i.e. Registrar Accreditation Agreement - RAA).
  • ICANN’s Contractual Compliance Department ensures registries and registrars are in compliance with those agreements.
  • The RA and RAA are also subject to changes by consensus policy developed through the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO)’s bottom-up, consensus-based Policy Development Process (PDP).
  • Policy changes to the RA and RAA directly affect individual registrants’ rights, obligations, and overall experiences using the domain name registration services.
  • As contracted party agreements are critical to the security and stability of the domain name system and have implications to the public interest, they also affect end users who do not have domain registrations.
  • Individual registrants and end users can contribute to shaping contracted party agreements, specifically the RAA, through GNSO processes.

What are the Contracted Party Agreements?

A registrar is an entity or organization that provides internet users the possibility to register domain names for their own use. Any entity that wants to offer domain name registration services under gTLDs with a direct access to the gTLD registries is required to obtain accreditation from ICANN. To that end, the interested entity must apply for accreditation and demonstrate that it meets all the technical, operational and financial criteria necessary to qualify as registrar business. The relationship between ICANN and every accredited registrar is governed by the individual Registrar Accreditation Agreements (RAA), which set out the obligations of both parties.

The other contracted party agreement is the Registry Agreement (RA). A registry operator (shortly 'registry') is an entity or organization that has an agreement with ICANN to operate and maintain a generic top-level domain, such as .com, .abc, .org, including maintaining a registry of all domain names within the respective gTLD. Through the Registry Agreement, ICANN designates a registry operator as the registry operator for a particular TLD, subject to the requirements and necessary approvals for delegation of the TLD and entry into the root zone.

ICANN's Registrar Accreditation Agreement and Registry Agreement are both subject to changes by consensus policy that has been developed through the GNSO's bottom-up, consensus-based policy development process (PDP). The areas of the agreements that can be modified through consensus policy are often referred to as the 'Picket Fence'. 

What is ICANN's role in the Contracted Party Agreements?

ICANN staff provides contracted parties (registries and registrars), registrants and the general public with information and general support with regard to ICANN-accredited registrars, registry operators (registries), the ICANN RAA and RA. Staff also assists prospective registrars and registries with preparing and reviewing their applications, as well as maintaining registrar accreditations and ensuring their compliance with RAA/RA obligations.

ICANN has a contractual compliance department to ensure compliance with those agreements. For gTLD registry side, ICANN contractual compliance department seeks to ensure functional and performance specifications are met, equivalent access to registry services is provided, reserved names resolve or have Whois records, zone file agreements are in specified form, public Whois service is provided, registries are in compliance with current data escrow requirements, registrar data are protected. For registrar side ICANN contractual compliance department. 

  • Collects data from complaints received from registrants, registrars, and other interested parties such as dispute providers, etc.
  • Monitors the efficiency and effectiveness of registrar responses to problems that have been identified • Monitors the accuracy of registrar contact information
  • Tracks data on the relative volume of complaints
  • Reviews issues raised involving transfers whether as the gaining or losing registrar
  • Conduct periodic reviews of registrar website and online forms
  • Implement a series of escalating penalty provisions as adopted by ICANN, which may include public notice of violations, sanctions, limits on access to registries or ability to accept transfers and de-accreditation.

ICANN`s stakeholders may develop policies that affect contracted party agreements. The Generic Name Supporting Organization (GNSO) develops consensus policy – this refers to issue that go through a bottom-up policy development process (PDP) and receives the approval of the GNSO Council and the ICANN Board. Consensus policy may result in amendments to contracted party agreements that ICANN signs with generic top-level domain registrars and registries. Both registries and registrars have their own stakeholder groups within the Contracted Parties House of the GNSO. Each stakeholder group from Contracted Parties House has 3 councilors in the GNSO Council who represent their groups` views in the policy development process.

Learn more about gTLD registry compliance and accredited registrar compliance

Why Contracted Party Agreements matter to you?

Registrar accreditation agreement and registry agreement, consensus policies developed and compliance to those agreements and policies directly affect domain name system. While stakeholder groups are already involved in policy development processes, ICANN contractual compliance department addresses complaints and concerns of contracted parties and registrants, the individuals and organizations that have registered domain names

Registrants may submit their complaints to ICANN contractual compliance department when they think contracted party agreements are violated and they have been treated unfairly. The most common types of complaints ICANN receives on accredited registrars that may be in violation of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement and/or consensus policies are listed on ICANN`s web site for registrants to easily locate their concern topic and submit their complaints. Contribution to this complaint process does not only help registrants solve their individual problems but also helps ICANN and the community ensure that contracted party agreements are followed.

Contracted party agreements still matter even for the end users that have not registered a domain name and become registrants. Compliance to those agreements is a significant factor that contributes to stability of the domain name system. Otherwise failing to comply with contracted party agreements would lead to glitches in the system and directly or indirectly affect all Internet ecosystem including the end users.