A dispute between two Wagga florists has seen the lawyers called in a week before Valentine’s Day.
Melissa Cummins, owner of Champs Flowers, said she called her solicitor after hearing a rival had allegedly set up an almost identical website domain name she believed was “misleading and deceptive to customers”.
Ms Cummins claimed a similar incident had happened previously with the same company.
When customers go to champswagga.com.au, they get sent to Ms Cummins’ website. But if they leave off the “.au” and go to champswagga.com instead, they’re redirected to Freckles Flowers’ website instead.
IT experts call it “typosquatting” – buying an almost identical domain name to an existing brand and waiting for visitors to make a mistake.
When first contacted by the DA, Freckles owner Katrina Dosser claimed the redirect did not exist, then said she was not aware of it. When asked about a similar incident in 2015, Ms Dosser said she had heard about it, but had no idea what had happened.
“I will look into it,” she said.
The timing could not be worse for Ms Cummins. Valentine’s Day is the busiest day of the year for florists and although she had been quite busy, there was no way of knowing how many customers had inadvertently been sent to Freckles instead.
“I’m worried that might be the case,” Ms Cummins said. “But there’s no way to track it.”
Computer security expert Daniel Winson said anyone can purchase a domain name and it was relatively simple to send visitors to a different website.
“It’s not very common though as legal action tends to come out on the side of the ‘victim’,” Mr Winson said. “There have been some high-profile examples where people have been forced to hand domains over.”
Within two months of opening Champs in September 2015, a customer called and asked about an order that was placed online.
“She made me aware that she had attempted to order flowers from our webpage and after doing some research (the order) had actually gone to another florist,” Ms Cummins said.
“She had gone to champswagga.com thinking it was our business but it was someone else.
“We approached our solicitor who was advised to send them a letter to make them aware that what they appeared to be doing was wrong (and) at that stage they were asked to remove the page as it was misleading and deceptive to customers.”
Ms Cummins said the page was removed soon after, but late last year it appeared to have gone up again.
“I sought legal advice again as it seems misleading and deceptive and they’re referring it on to appropriate authorities,” she said.