European registrars for the ".eu" domain will be able to immediately stop the transfer of ownership of a domain name if any form of abuse is suspected.

The rule, set to take effect 19 February, will make it easier for investigations into activities such as spam, although the Web site can still function, said Patrik Lindén, communications manager for the European Registry of Internet Domain Names (Eurid).

Eurid is a non-profit organisation based in Diegem, Belgium, that oversees administration of the .eu domain, which started accepting registrations in December 2005. So far, about 2.4 million websites now carry the .eu top-level domain suffix.

Under current rules, registrars had to give domain owners 14 days notice before putting a hold on ownership transfers, Lindén said. But those who were using websites for nefarious activities could continually transfer ownership, making it more difficult to take action, he added.

Eurid, which has been running for about a year, is also circulating a draft of a code of conduct for its registrars. The code lays out a series of best practices that weren't appropriate to include in the legal agreement Eurid already has with domain registrars, Lindén said.

Eurid has had trouble with registrars before. In July 2006, Eurid suspended 74,000 .eu web addresses and sued 400 registrars after it suspected domain names were being registered with the intent to sell them, which is forbidden. Later, Eurid said it appeared all of the suspended domain names and registrars were linked to just three UK-based companies.

Eurid is accepting comments through 19 February from registrars on a draft version of the code, Lindén said. The code will be finalised next month and will be voluntary for registrars.

After electing a new executive board of registrars, the code should be put into practice by the end of March, Lindén said.

Registrars that adopt the code will be entitled to place a ".eu Code of Conduct" logo on their website to alert users, indicating the registrar meets the code's service standards.