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Nominet Wins Appeal Against WeightedVoting Member

Court UK

It's been two weeks since a member of the group, along with another member of the group acting as Counsel lost a court hearing, and there has been no update on the website. Has the towel finally been thrown in? Alternatively, they may not want to keep members updated with news that contradicts their claims. You'll have to make your minds up on that one. As it happens, it was left to Nominet to release a statement to members, and they did so yesterday.

Just to recap, for two different reasons, I have little time for the two people involved in this claim and who act for I will try to put those aside and remain objective, but it's best to be upfront that my views could be biased.

Nominet’s Court Update - Posted On the Community Forum 14/02/24

"In July last year, a claim was initiated in the County Court for a refund of membership subscription fees. This is an update on that legal process.

We did not receive the Claim Form (which is sent by standard postal service) and so did not respond to it. This enabled a default judgment to be entered since no defence had been filed within the Court’s deadline to respond to a claim. There is a process to ‘set aside’ a default judgment, and once we were aware of the Claim Form we applied to set aside the default judgment using this standard process. It should be noted that simply allows for the Claim Form to be defended, and does not amount to a determination of the legal merits of the case brought against Nominet.

The application to set aside the default judgment was successfully made on 31 January 2024 at the Cardiff County Court.

We want members to know that Nominet always seeks to avoid unnecessary legal costs. As part of that effort we wrote to the claimant on seven separate occasions outlining why we felt that a Court hearing was unnecessary. However, the claimant continued to oppose the application, despite warnings that he could end up becoming liable for Nominet’s wasted legal costs.

A copy of the Court’s judgment is attached for reference below.

Should the claimant wish to continue with his claim then naturally Nominet will be forced into continuing to incur further costs as the litigation continues.

We will keep members updated as and when there are any significant developments."

Quick Recap

Today, Nominet posted an update on their Community forum announcing that they had been successful in their attempt to have the previous default judgment set aside. This was in relation to a judgment that a member of had managed to obtain back in July/August 2023. immediately published two statements referring to the fact that the judgment proved they had merit and Nominet didn’t have a legitimate argument, even going as far as to say;

“However, we now have a court judgement that confirms that Nominet has no right to charge joining and subscription fees. That is a seismic shift in the ground on which the company’s constitution is founded. It has to be brought to the members attention before they can be asked to make an informed decision.

Even if, as your Community statement suggests, you apply to set aside the judgement, it remains in force unless and until you make and prevail in an application; which, for the reasons I have set out above, I think is very unlikely to be successful.”



This was always an extremely disingenuous view to take, and even a misleading one to make to other members. A default judgment is little more than a judge casting the faintest of eyes over it to check that your claim was filed correctly (it wasn't) and you have the most basic of legal arguments. To claim that this default judgment confirmed Nominet had no right to charge joining fees was extremely silly, something that has diminished WeightedVoting’s points on other issues. Nominet were always going to appeal, and were almost certainly always going to be successful, so in the end you'd eventually have to retract everything you claimed anyway. Although it may have been these erroneous claims that convinced some members to vote against the 2023 article changes, so maybe these two got what they wanted. Just how members now feel about being misled by WeightedVoting is yet to be seen.

The old saying "King for a day, fool for a lifetime" comes to mind. Reading back the claims WeightedVoting made about that default judgement now looks very foolish, infact everyone involved should be a little bit embarrassed with themselves.

Statement 1

Statement 2

The Appeal

Nominet didn’t receive the claim form, so they couldn’t submit a defense. That’s the crux of the matter. None of us would consider it fair if we didn’t receive the paperwork and lost a judgment, but defendants get the chance to appeal and Nominet did.

The only minor concern I had about Nominet’s appeal is that they didn’t file it for 2-3 weeks. According to some legal sites on the internet, filing the appeal within 2-3 weeks is cutting it fine. The Court expects rapid responses. But given the nature and seriousness of the claim, Nominet had to put together an in-depth defense, which wouldn’t have been quick or simple to produce before they appealed. Under these circumstances, 2-3 weeks was unlikely to concern the Judge.

Appeal Arguments

In my opinion there were only ever 4, maybe 5 questions the Judge was going to ask.

  1. 1) Did Nominet receive the claim form from the Court?

  2. 2) Were Nominet negligent in any way that could have increased the chances that they didn’t receive it?

  3. 3) Did the Judge believe what Nominet was telling him/her?

  4. 4) Does Nominet have a reasonable defense to the overall claim?

  5. 5) A possible fifth question would be: Did the Claimant follow the correct pre-action protocols?

My Thoughts

I've yet to speak to anyone that significantly disagrees with me on any of this.

  1. 1) There is no evidence that Nominet received the claim form. There is no recorded delivery signature. I think the Judge was always going to accept that they didn’t.

  2. 2) Nominet explained their standard protocol for legal documents, and assuming that they couldn’t explain where things had gone wrong. The Judge, not being able to rule out a failure with Royal Mail, was again always going to side with Nominet. If they did receive the docs and gave a reasonable explanation where things went wrong, and the Judge accepted it, then it is a done deal. Without knowing it's tough to say.

  3. 3) There was no reason for the Judge not to believe Nominet. Did anyone really expect her to announce that they were being misleading? It would also defy common sense. For what good reason would they have torn up the Court Documents and thrown them away? As they are here now trying to defend the claim, the only good reason would have been to kick the production of their defence down the road for a few weeks, which doesn’t make sense, especially landing them with a default judgement right before a crucial AGM vote on those articles.

  4. 4) It was always clear that Nominet had a reasonable defense. They had been looking into this for almost a year.

  5. 5) I’ll not go into this too much. Unlike others, unless it’s to defend yourself, it’s not good drills to start digging out private chats. Needless to say though, the claimant could have helped himself avoid this mess.

The Result

Nominet were successful and the judge found in their favour. The appeal was allowed and the default Judgement set aside. They were also awarded part of their costs - totalling £10,000 - ouch!


Why Object To The Appeal?

According to Nominet, the claimant objected to their appeal. He may have been corresponding with Nominet’s legal team without his own counsel on the record at this point. Just how much that individual, while not on the record, advised him to object will only be known to them two. But either way, given the 5 points above, it was very unwise.

Was it done in the mistaken belief that there was no possibility of adverse costs being awarded in the small claims Court? I will say that I, along with others, warned the claimant months ago to get these things checked out with an independent legal advisor, not the one he chose in the end. I think at this point, the claimant would have been wiser to have instructed legal representation who didn't have their own grievance with Nominet, and one experienced in putting forth arguments in legal procedures. A trademark solicitor would not have been my first choice to represent me in this type of hearing. I do think there was a duty on the solicitor to advise him that he would be better employing someone who had that experience, to be fair, maybe he did, we’ll never know!

Either way, had he sourced his own specialist legal representation, the legal advice would almost certainly have been: don’t object, or drop the objection as fast as possible as you will not succeed and will be hit with huge costs.


Why Object To The Appeal? Part 2

One thing that absolutely baffles me here is that these two individuals have spent the last 18 months taunting Nominet into obtaining a court decision to test the arguments in relation to the Articles and membership fees, etc. Then, just as Nominet stands up to do so, these two object and tell the court that they don’t want the case to be heard on its merits. Strategically, this was another mistake. To members, it now looks like they were always afraid of arguments on the merits being heard in court. Regardless of what happens from here, the arguments will only be seen as being pushed by two people who no longer believe they hold water.

If they truly believed in their arguments, they'd have been happy to argue them out in a trial - surely that's just common sense? When Nominet say well we turned up, but you tried to run away. What will WeightedVoting's response be then? In PR terms, WeightedVoting just scored a massive own goal.


Never Was About The Articles

As I mentioned in another blog post, this isn’t about the Articles, and it never has been. I believe that the objections to having the merits heard in open court now prove I was right. This is a personal vendetta by at least two individuals who have personal grudges with certain Nominet staff going back years. In my opinion, their goal has been to drag other members into new arguments to give their prejudices cover. But as both are now involved in personal Court action against Nominet, it seemed they believed their own views were real more than the people they tried to groom - in a way, they got a bit a bit high on their own supply.

I continue to use whatever influence I have with my friends and those who know me to stay away from this confrontational path, and I’d advise them not to join in, this board is the most open and friendly I've ever seen in my time as a member. Those who signed the original WeightedVoting list have already been successful because they constructively asked Nominet’s board to take a look at the lawfulness of the Articles, the board listened and they proposed new Company Articles to bring them up to date. The board did what members asked, and in my opinion, went even further. Hopefully those articles will likely return one day and hopefully pass.

What Now?

Essentially, this restarts the clock, and the case will follow its normal path. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect Nominet will take two actions. First, they will request for the claim to be moved to Oxford or London, which is their right as the defendant. Second, they will try to have it moved up to a higher court. They’ll argue that the claim is too complex and serious for the small claims court to handle. Given that one side has already tried to use it as justification for over a thousand members to claim back 6 years of their membership fees (amounting to many millions), they’ll likely succeed in convincing a small claims judge that this is too serious. Plus, if the claimant objects, do the costs start racking up again from that point? He's already been hit for £10,000, could easily hit another £10k in the blink of an eye.

Once it's moved up to a higher court (Multi-Track at least), the costs involved could be astronomical. If the claimant loses, it could be life-changing. What was once a free hit for £900 in a local court has now turned into him putting all of his assets and his future on the line to win just £900.

I urge the claimant to drop everything right now. Start talking to Nominet's legal team, can do it without prejudice and get it wound down immediately. Whether he does or not is another matter. If he keeps taking the same advice from the same people, then he’s in trouble. As I said at the beginning, I have little time for him, but I’d never want to see someone's life ruined over this. It’s time for him to let go.

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