Domain Disputes Explained

A domain name dispute is a conflict that arises when more than one individual or group believes they have the right to register a specific domain name. Most commonly a domain name dispute would occur when a domain name similar to a registered trademark is registered by an individual or organisation who is not the trademark owner. 

Thabelo Mulaudzi administers the whole domain dispute process from start to finish at Domain Name Services (Pty) Ltd (DNS-ZA). She acts as the middle person between the parties and the adjudicators, and with a minimum of four cases coming in each month, she has her work cut out for her! We spoke to her about the ins and outs of the domain disputes process and she laid out the steps that go into a complete dispute case. 

How does one lodge a dispute?

The SAIIPL provides a standard template that is used when filing a dispute, the template document can be found here. There are a couple of things that you will need to keep in mind when lodging a dispute, namely:

i. you will need to set out in sufficient detail any evidence you have that the registration of the domain name you want to oppose is an abusive registration bearing in mind the list of non-exhaustive factors in paragraph 4 of the Regulations; 

ii. the second level administrators will maintain a hands-off approach to any domain name complaint. This means that if you have any queries regarding a dispute, you will need to contact an accredited ZA Domain Name Dispute Resolution Regulations (ZADRR) dispute resolution provider;

iii. the address you provide when completing your complaint needs to be a valid address in South Africa since if the Respondent elects to institute legal proceedings against you, they will be entitled to use the address you have provided as the address to serve any Court documents on you; and

iv. we have a limit of words. The word limit for the submission of a Complaint or a Response, as regulated by the provisions of Regulation 16(2)(o), is 5000 (five thousand) words. If you exceed this amount, your complaint will be sent back to you to amend to ensure that you comply with our word limit.

Once you have completed the documentation, you can submit the dispute in accordance with the guidelines provided for here.

You will also need to keep in mind that we require hard copies of the complaint, which will need to be sent to the physical address above. 


What documentation is needed to resolve a dispute

The SAIIPL provides a template document that needs to be completed by the Complainant when lodging a dispute. The SAIIPL also provides a Response template document that needs to be completed by the Respondent. These documents can be accompanied by any additional evidence documentation. 

How long does the Dispute process take to complete?

It depends on whether the case results in a Summary Decision or a full Decision. If it’s a summary decision case then the process should take approximately two months to complete. If it’s a full decision case, then it should take approximately 3 months to complete.

Summary Decision: In case where a dispute is unopposed, the adjudicator will give a summary decision. Some good case examples are: ZA2020-0408, ZA2020-0406 & ZA2020-0409. The link to view these is:

Full decision: Is when the dispute is opposed and goes through Informal mediation process, the adjudicator will provide a full decision.

Informal Mediation: Is an impartial mediation which the Authority (ZADNA) conducts to facilitate a resolution acceptable to both Parties.

How much does it cost to lodge a Domain Dispute?

The cost of lodging a complaint vary depending on the time and advocate fees for each individual case. Typically, with a single adjudicator is R10,000-00 and R24,000-00 if you want three adjudicators to hear your dispute.

If the Respondent decides that they want three adjudicators to hear the matter then the Complainant and Respondent will be responsible for paying R12,000-00 to us (i.e. half the cost of a 3 adjudicator panel each) before the matter can proceed.

What if i can’t afford to pay for Dispute fees?

A complainant or registrant may approach the ZA Domain Name Authority (ZADNA), in writing, for financial assistance to lodge a dispute or defend a dispute, which assistance may be considered at the discretion of ZADNA taking into account the financial means of the complainant or registrant. 

Do I need a lawyer to represent me when lodging a domain dispute?

No. However, lawyers have been trained to deal with such domain name complaints and may be in a position to assist you better than if you try to object to a domain name on your own.

If I'm not successful, can I appeal a dispute case?

Absolutely, but only if your complaint was adjudicated by a single adjudicator. If three adjudicators decided your case you do not have a right of appeal. If you do have the right to appeal and you feel that an adjudicator has not made the correct decision, you must submit a statement of intention to appeal within 4 days from the day that the adjudicator made their decision and this statement of intention to appeal must be accompanied by payment of R24,000-00 to SAIIPL. 

Once you have submitted your statement of intention to appeal and payment to us, you will then have 15 working days within which to file an appeal notice setting out the reasons why the adjudicator's decision was wrong. This appeal notice may not exceed 1000 words.

Once a party has submitted an appeal notice, the other party will then have 10 working days within which to file an appeal notice response setting out (in 1000 words or less) why the decision of the adjudicator was correct.

Once we receive your documents, we will then appoint three adjudicators to hear the complaint. The adjudicators will then have 20 days within which to make a decision and forward that decision to us

For any other information or to lodge a dispute, visit the Domain Disputes website at

Posted by Kilana Chohan
Kilana is our Marketing and Communications Coordinator, having graduated from UCT with an Environmental Science and Media Studies degree, her wide range of interests and expertise have brought a fresh and interesting lens to the display and distribution of our products and services.