When is an Escrow not an Escrow?

When is an Escrow not an Escrow?

I was reading another blog recently (yes I do that) and was intrigued by the comments on an article about escrow. A viable, secure and reputable escrow service is absolutely key to every domainer if they are to safely buy and sell domains. So when is an escrow not an escrow?

I used three key words in my first paragraph and I would like to unpack them to help readers judge and escrow service.

Is the business that is ultimately backing up the escrow service going to be there tomorrow? Do they have the financial ability to pay their debts when they fall due (ie. are they solvent)? My impression is there are too many people hanging out a sign saying that they can do escrow and actually have no idea what it means.

For example, I receive requests all the time from new monetisation companies wanting to get access to our large volume of traffic at ParkLogic. My problem is that for many of them I don’t know if they will be in business in the next 12 months. It’s the same for some of the start-up escrow companies, they just aren’t viable.

Security is all about whether there is an independent body that verifies that the internal processes of any escrow transaction are auditable and transparent. This means that the escrow company needs to go through the expense of government audits that verify they are a legitimate escrow business that is conducting themselves in a good and proper manner.

Recently I’ve seen a number of escrow companies pop up in strange and wonderful jurisdictions. This doesn’t mean that the escrow company is bad but it does mean that they are doing this for a particular reason. In many cases, it could be that the costs of providing a fully operational escrow business in the USA is too high, therefore they get an escrow license off-shore.

The advantage of a company that goes through the expense of a US license is that they tick a lot of the boxes. They have the money to pay and go through the government audits. It’s very likely that the US government audit will be a lot more stringent compared to other jurisdictions.

For example, my understanding is that you need to get a license for each US state (some are bundled together) and that California is really the big one. I’m not a lawyer but if you’re conducting an escrow business in California without a license then I would have thought that you’re on dangerous ground. There are some creative ways around this problem but if you’re doing business in California as an escrow company then why not just get the license and be done with it? I may be a little naïve but I just don’t get it.

One of the most difficult things that you can do in business is build a good reputation. It often takes years and years of consistently doing the right thing by customers.

For example, I’m privileged to be part of a group of domainers get together at each conference. We do so because over the last 10+ years that we’ve known each other there has developed a sense of trust and mutual respect. It’s taken a lot of time to build these relationships and the result is a huge amount of business between us.

It’s the same thing for an escrow company. It takes years to develop the reputation as a place that can be trusted with literally millions of dollars of transactions. Reputation is everything.

So when is an escrow not an escrow? From my way of thinking, it's when they can't tick the boxes of viable, secure and reputable.

I’m very careful about who I have sponsoring my blog and I’m very proud to have Escrow.com on here because they are viable, secure and reputable. I’m not saying that any other escrow company is not any good. What I am saying is that I’ve only had positive experiences of dealing with Escrow.com


Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face.

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