The European Consumer Centre Ireland has been following the debate in the media and received many queries in relation to shopping woes and unclear consumer rights when buying on what are believed to the Ireland-based .ie websites. Anecdotal evidence highlighted by media reports and our own consumer complaints suggest that consumers are unaware that many .ie domains are based elsewhere and all orders ship from abroad.
Below we will try to explain how this is relevant for shopping online on .ie websites and how you can find out where the business is actually based, and where it ships from (which affects taxes and charges applicable in transit and at destination).
But first, we look at where .ie domains/websites come from and what .ie really means in the age of global commerce? .
How can one register an .ie domain?
According to the latest edition of the .IE Domain Profile Report, here
there are now 309,953 .ie domains in total globally, with 65,113 registered in 2020.
Country domain registrations such as Ireland’s .ie are based on a specific national vetting process that is operated currently by the IE Domain Registry, the national domain name registry for the .ie country code top-level domain. The company ‘IE’ is not a governing or regulatory body but administers and manages the .ie namespace, as appointed and regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation and directed by these advisory members, on the basis of the Communications Regulation (Amendment) Act 2007.
Its prerogatives are briefly listed in their literature below:
There are a few steps to complete when applying to register an .ie site, according to the latest registration policies here.
All applicants that are “companies, businesses and other trading entities” must provide a “real and substantive connection to the island of Ireland and proof of identity”. If “not resident in, based in, or registered in, Ireland”, they “may still be eligible to register a .ie domain” if they “sell goods or services to consumers or businesses in the island of Ireland and can provide evidence” such as:
Commercial entities such as “companies, business partnerships, sole traders” must also provide proof of “commercial identity (e.g., certificate of Incorporation or verifiable online company number or VAT number)”. If a utility bill showing an address in the island of Ireland is provided, proof of personal identity must be added in, too. Additional or alternative requirements for company applicants, are to provide an Irish or EU Community Trademark number or certificate or a WIPO Trademark number or certificate (if enforceable in Ireland). At the end of the process, IE states that:
While the requirements for overseas applicants are listed here, the actual application is made through an accredited registrar, which is “a company that has signed an agreement with the IE Domain Registry, authorising it to act as an agent for registrants”. These agents can be based in Ireland or abroad, both within and outside the EU, according to the list here. Another option to acquire an .ie domain is to purchase it as part of a package when you set up / buy a ready-made website from a website-building/supply platform. .ie domains are also transferrable.
Where do new .ie domains come from in 2020/2021?
There are at least a few possible sources:
- Irish businesses getting online for the first time in 2020
- UK businesses looking to continue to sell to Ireland after Brexit, either directly from Ireland (through an Irish company) or from the UK (through a .ie website but shipping either from the UK or from the EU)
- EU/non-EU businesses that expanded their online sales into Ireland before and during 2020 taking advantage of a situation where Irish businesses had a small digital presence overall while Irish consumers shopped extensively online abroad (75% on amazon.co.uk and the rest on continental Europe and further afield)
- EU businesses looking to fill the post-Brexit gap in supplies as many UK business stopped exporting to Ireland due to rising trade costs
- Other EU/non-EU based websites that normally sell to Ireland but are not based or registered in Ireland
So where are these EU and non-EU businesses that are not in fact based in Ireland but sell their products here?
Of a total of 309,953 .ie domains, only 278,042 are based in the Republic of Ireland (4,532 based in Northern Ireland). Which leaves 31,911 .ie websites operating from outside the island of Ireland; 4,219 new international .ie domains were registered in 2020. The global geographical spread of the .ie domains also features in the .IE Domain Profile Report:
Online shopping can sometimes be tricky if you can’t figure out where the retailer is based. Read our advice on how to shop on these international .ie domain websites here: