The Department of Communications has published regulations to deal with disputes regarding the .za domain name, in the Government Gazette.

The Alternative Dispute Resolution Regulations that have been signed by Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri provide guidelines, rules and procedures and also set out fee structures for the adjudication of such disputes. This is in terms of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act.

The Regulations also provide for the accreditation of domain name dispute resolution service providers by the .za Domain Name Authority (.zaDNA). The department said following the promulgation of the regulations, the .zaDNA would invite service providers to apply for accreditation. Accredited service providers would then select adjudicators to decide disputes.

"All accredited dispute resolution providers will be published by .zaDNA, which will also make an announcement once the process is open to dispute resolution," said the department.

Areas covered by the regulations include intellectual property rights, commercial, cultural, linguistic, religious and personal rights in relation to domain names, protected under South African law.

They also allow a complainant to request dispute resolution where it can be proved that he or she has rights to a name or mark that is identical or similar to a domain name registered by someone else.

It furthermore allows dispute resolution over domain names that constitute abusive or offensive registrations.

The department said lack of such regulations in the past had been described as hampering e-commerce, and left aggrieved parties with no alternative but to litigate in court, at a high cost, to get a domain name back.

The regulations were developed in consultation with the Department of Trade and Industry, and is at this stage only applicable to domain names registered in the second level domain.

A domain name is a unique Internet address that identifies a website, for example, or

There are ten general top level domain names including .com for professional companies, .org for NGOs, .info for information databases and .biz for businesses, among others.