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A brewer's domain is his castle … or not

Date

David Ellery

Owner of the Wig and Pen, Lachie McOmish , behind the bar of the Civic establishment.

Owner of the Wig and Pen, Lachie McOmish , behind the bar of the Civic establishment. Photo: Lannon Harley

The owners of the Wig and Pen pub and brewery are angry its online presence has been used to promote a Melbourne-based financial planning company without their consent.

Wig and Pen proprietor Lachie McOmish said he believed the Alinga Street watering hole had been a victim of identity theft.

The pub used to have a website, wigandpen.com.au, until Optus stopped hosting the service some time ago. Having developed a well-supported Facebook page the principals did not pay much heed to the loss.

That changed this week when Mr McOmish discovered the expired domain name had been sold to the CJT Boutros Trust, which holds about 60 domain names in total, and a new page had been established without his consent.

That page, which featured a generic food and beer image, referenced publicly available information to make it appear to be the award-winning pub and brewery's legitimate website.

''The food is traditional pub fare, with generous servings. All main meals have the brewers [sic] recommendation of the beer to match your choice of meal,'' it stated.

All the links on the page were to services offered by CCA Financial Planners, which has offices in Yarraville, Victoria, and Campsie in NSW.

''We purchased some expired domains (from Netfleet) and used them for marketing purposes,'' CCA principal Christopher Cachia said at 3.30pm on Thursday.

''We do internet marketing; we buy links from websites. We don't ask where they come from. They [Wig and Pen] can buy their domain name back. I will pass on the areas of concern to the people concerned.''

By 5pm on Thursday afternoon, the site had been closed down.

Mr Cachia said he was not aware of any business relationship between his company and the CJT Boutros Trust or Charlie Boutros, who is listed as the registrant contact name.

He was also not aware of the use of Wig and Pen's business identity on the fake website being used to push online inquiries to his own business.

Mr McOmish said the pub and brewery had no interest in buying the domain name back; the principal concern was the ethics of such marketing and the use of his businesses details without consent.

''The government, quite rightly, makes people aware of the issue of identity theft. In our case it has taken a very unexpected form.''

The legalities of what happened to The Wig and Pen seem to be a grey area. A spokesman for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said he did not believe it came under that organisation's umbrella of responsibility.

Domain names can be big business. According to Netfleet, the company from which Mr Cachia said he bought expired domains, $125,001 was paid for investmentproperty.com.au. When homeloancalculator.com.au was put up for auction it realised $33,001.

There are bargains though: snapper.com.au recently sold for $208.

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