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Alternatives to has done a brilliant job of projecting itself as the only safe escrow company online. However, that's far from true.

It has managed to do this because there have been a few escrow frauds around and it found an opportunity to play on people's insecurities.

Do you know who you're dealing with?

No escrow company is 100% safe. While I'm sure is very reliable (and I use them a lot) not many people know that when they enter into a transaction on it's not actually handled by but the company that has "leased" this domain to.


Yes. It's a company called IES (Internet Escrow Services) which is one of the "subsidiaries" of It's not a secret and is all made very clear on the site if you read the small print. IES  are authorised by as the sole (?) operator of all the transactions that make it to IES don't own; it's a separate company. If IES go bankrupt tomorrow - though I have no indication that they will - could continue taking business using a new affiliate or subsidiary.

Dangers of using if you're not based in California

IES is registered and regulated by Californian law. There are instances where that is not necessarily to everybody's liking. Californian Licensing authorities believe that they own the world. Any company not licenced by California - even if it's a British company licenced and regulated in the UK - is in violation of Californian law if they do business in California i.e. one party to the transaction resides in CA, according to section 17200 of the California Financial Code. Also, should anything go wrong with the transaction and you are in dispute with your escrow company - your local courts aren't good enough. Do you really want to go all the way to California to fight it?

Section 17200 is long and boring but if you read it you may be forgiven for thinking it's more about raising revenue for California than protecting Californians. Escrow companies Comparing escrow companiesthat want to be licenced here have to cough up huge deposits - fair enough - but also huge fees to the State Governments. That higher operating cost has to be transferred to customers - you and me - via higher charges.

eBay themselves recommend escrow-europa, etc. for people in Europe/Germany.,, Escrowaustralia* and numerous others provide just as good a service for domains and are very reliable. In many cases, these alternate escrow companies provide a better service and/or a service better suited to individual transactions and transactions in particular locations. In many cases, they are a lot cheaper, a lot more efficient and a lot safer. See a comparison between and iescrow (for example) in the image here.

*escrowaustralia now redirects to so scratch them. Tradesecure, another ebay recommended escrow in Australia now seems to be dead. is NOT the right company for handling website sales

Log into an account and attempt to start a transaction - there will be four options for transaction type: "Motor Vehicle", "Domain Name", "General Merchandise" and "Software".

The first and third are obviously not suitable. What about the other two? Well, if the transaction for a website is started under "software" this is how it could play out: The seller transfers the site files, database etc., to the buyer but refuses to transfer the domain name. The buyer has to release funds and the essential purpose of the escrow protection is defeated - the buyer will not get the domain name.

Should the transaction be listed under "domains" there's the reverse problem. The buyer could end up with the domain name and nothing else despite the agreed price being for the whole website.



This isn't a recommendation against It's against using to buy or sell a website. It's against using if you're not based in California. It's a pointer to the many other reliable escrow companies around that may be better suited to your individual transaction or location.

So why do you see so many recommendations for, including our own? Well, it's part the reputation and brand that have successfully built up and it may be partly because pays webmasters like us, via their affiliate program, for sending them business.

Added Dec 2011:

There are some newer escrow companies around including SafeFunds and eCop. I haven't dug too deeply into either of them, but the latter seems to have very little information about themselves on their site ... and don't seem to be bonded i.e. third party secured ring-fencing of customer funds.