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updated 2/27/2008 1:31:41 PM ET 2008-02-27T18:31:41

A company that sells Internet addresses is being sued for its controversial practice of holding a domain name in reserve if someone checks for its availability but does not buy it right away.

Although Network Solutions LLC termed its new program a consumer-protection measure, the moves make it difficult for interested parties to shop around for better prices. The company charges $35 a year for a name — a few times more than what many of its rivals charge.

The lawsuit against Network Solutions was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by Chris McElroy, a Florida man who checked for "KidSearchNetwork.com" at Network Solutions without buying it, then learned it was unavailable elsewhere. The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, calls for an end to the practice and unspecified damages.

Also named as a defendant is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the agency that oversees domain name policies, including one that Network Solutions uses to keep names in reserve for up to five days without having to pay fees.

Network Solutions has said it was trying to combat domain name front running — the use of insider information to snatch desired domain names before an individual or business can register them. But what it's doing shares similarities with that very practice.

The company has since made changes, including adding a link on its home page to explain the new policy, but McElroy's lawyer, Brian Kabateck, said such disclosure does not address the issues in the lawsuit.

ICANN and Network Solutions had no comment.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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