WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center
ADMINISTRATIVE PANEL DECISION
Confederation Nationale du Credit Mutuel v. WhoisGuard, Inc. / Gloria Achidi, Colossale Inc, Florentin Agbe, Colossale Inc
Case No. D2019-2585
1. The Parties
The Complainant is Confederation Nationale du Credit Mutuel, France (hereinafter referred to as “Complainant”), represented by MEYER & Partenaires, France.
The Respondents are WhoisGuard, Inc., Panama / Gloria Achidi, Colossale Inc, Benin and Florentin Agbe, Colossale Inc, Benin (hereinafter referred to, jointly and severally, as “Respondent”).
2. The Domain Names and Registrar
The disputed domain names <creditmutuelbank.online> and <credit-mutuelbnk.online> are registered with NameCheap, Inc. (the “Registrar”).
3. Procedural History
The Complaint was filed with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (the “Center”) on October 22, 2019. On October 22, 2019, the Center transmitted by email to the Registrar a request for registrar verification in connection with the disputed domain names. On the same day, the Registrar transmitted by email to the Center its verification response disclosing registrant and contact information for the disputed domain names which differed from the named respondent and contact information in the Complaint. The Center sent an email communication to Complainant on October 23, 2019, providing the registrant and contact information disclosed by the Registrar, and inviting Complainant to amend the Complaint adding the Registrar-disclosed registrants as formal respondents and provide relevant arguments or evidence demonstrating that all named respondents are, in fact, the same entity and/or that all disputed domain names are under common control; and/or file a separate complaint for any disputed domain names for which it is not possible to demonstrate that all named respondents are in fact the same entity and/or that all disputed domain names are under common control and indicate which disputed domain names will no longer be included in the current Complaint. Complainant filed an amended Complaint on October 25, 2019, including comments on consolidation. The Center sent an email communication on November 5, 2019 to the Parties regarding the prima facie consolidation of the Respondents.
The Center verified that the Complaint together with the amended Complaint satisfied the formal requirements of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Policy” or “UDRP”), the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Rules”), and the WIPO Supplemental Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Supplemental Rules”).
In accordance with the Rules, paragraphs 2 and 4, the Center formally notified Respondent of the Complaint, and the proceedings commenced on November 5, 2019. In accordance with the Rules, paragraph 5, the due date for Response was November 25, 2019. Respondent did not submit any response. Accordingly, the Center notified Respondent’s default on November 26, 2019.
The Center appointed M. Scott Donahey as the sole panelist in this matter on December 2, 2019. The Panel finds that it was properly constituted. The Panel has submitted the Statement of Acceptance and Declaration of Impartiality and Independence, as required by the Center to ensure compliance with the Rules, paragraph 7.
4. Consolidation of Respondents
The disputed domain names were registered through a privacy service in August 2019. Complaint, Annex A. Upon receiving notification that a complaint had been filed under the Policy, the Registrar notified the Center that the registrants were identified as two individuals located in Cotonou, Littoral Province, Benin. While the two identified registrants gave different street addresses, both claimed membership in the same organization (Colossale Inc.). The disputed domain names appear to use the same server. The two disputed domain names are identical, but for the addition of a hyphen and the omission of the “a” in the final English word “bank.” Both were registered in the generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”) “.online”, and both disputed domain names initially resolved to a web site of a fictitious entity named “C Credit Mutuel” which offered financial services similar to those offered by Complainant. Accordingly, the Panel finds that there is more than sufficient evidence of identicality to justify consolidation.
5. Factual Background
The Panel incorporates herein the facts set forth in Section 4, supra.
Complainant is a French group that provides banking and insurance services to more than 12 million clients and which has operated for more than a century. Complainant has 3,178 offices in France, and its business name CREDIT MUTUEL is reserved to it by order of the French ministry of October 16, 1958. Complainant was one of the first French banking groups to offer online banking services to its clients.
Complainant has French registered trademarks for CREDIT MUTEL one of which issued as early as July 8, 1988, with the registration No. 1475940 and a European Union trademark No. 009943135 for CREDIT MUTUEL which issued on May 15, 2011, and an International trademark No. 570182 for CREDIT MUTUEL which issued on May 17, 1991. Complaint, Annexes D1, D3, and D4. These trademarks were registered more than eight years prior to the registration of the disputed domain names, and Complainant’s French trademark was issued more than thirty years prior to the registration of the disputed domain names. It should be noted that Benin’s official language is French.
Complainant has a number of domain names whose Second-Level Domain (“SLD”) consists of “creditmutuel”, and which were registered as early as October 1995. Complaint, Annex E.
Initially, Respondent used both disputed domain names to resolve to a web site which purported to be operated by Complainant, offering financial services, including credits and loans. Complaint, Annexes F2 and F3. Respondent’s web sites featured a contact form, loan request form, and personal identification portal, inviting users who arrive at what appears to be a web site operated by Complainant to share the users personal and financial information with what appears to be Complainant, but which in fact is not connected to Complainant. Complaint, Annex F.
6. Parties’ Contentions
Complainant alleges that each of the disputed domain names is confusingly similar to Complainant’s CREDIT MUTUEL trademarks, that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names, and that Respondent has registered and is using the disputed domain names in bad faith.
Respondent did not reply to Complainant’s contentions.
7. Discussion and Findings
A Panel shall decide a complaint on the basis of the statements and documents submitted and in accordance with the Policy, these Rules and any rules and principles of law that it deems applicable.
Paragraph 4(a) of the Policy directs that the complainant must prove each of the following:
“(i) that the domain name registered by the respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and
(ii) that the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(iii) that the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.”
A. Identical or Confusingly Similar
The disputed domain names both incorporate Complainant’s registered trademark CREDIT MUTUEL. In one of the disputed domain names this is followed by the English word “bank”, which is descriptive of one facet of Complainant’s business. In the second of the disputed domain names, the trademark is followed by an abbreviated version of the English word “bank,” i.e., “bnk,” and the words “credit” and “mutuel” are separated by a hyphen. Accordingly, the Panel finds that each of the disputed domain names is confusingly similar to Complainant’s registered trademarks.
B. Rights or Legitimate Interests
While the overall burden of proof in UDRP proceedings is on the complainant, UDRP panels have recognized that proving a respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests in a domain name may result in the often impossible task of proving a negative, requiring information that is often primarily within the knowledge or control of the respondent. As such, where a complainant makes out a prima facie case that the respondent lacks rights or legitimate interests, the burden of production on this element shifts to the respondent to come forward with relevant evidence demonstrating rights or legitimate interests in the domain name. If the respondent fails to come forward with such relevant evidence, the complainant is deemed to have satisfied the second element. WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Third Edition (“WIPO Overview 3.0”), section 2.1.
In the present case, Complainant alleges that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names and Respondent has failed to assert any such rights. Accordingly, the Panel finds that Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the disputed domain names.
C. Registered and Used in Bad Faith
Both of the disputed domain names were registered long after Complainant had registered the CREDIT MUTUEL trademark and long after that trademark had become well known. Both of the two trademarks were initially used to resolve to a web site at which financial services similar to those offered by Complainant under its well-known trademark. Both initially sought confidential personal and financial information from users who were led to believe that they were dealing with Complainant. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the disputed domain names were each registered and used in bad faith.
For the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the disputed domain names <creditmutuelbank.online> and <credit-mutuelbnk.online> be transferred to Complainant.
M. Scott Donahey
Date: December 9, 2019