A new transfer policy for inter-registrar domain names went into effect on Friday, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) said.

Domain name owners will now be able choose registrars much in the same fashion that telephone numbers can be moved between carriers, ICANN said. The idea behind the policy is to allow users to find the services and prices that best suit their needs, to increase competition between registrars and to drive down costs, it said.

ICANN, the group that oversees Internet technical matters, originally announced the policy in July, after it had received unanimous approval by both ICANN's Generic Names Supporting Organization and its board of directors.

The group said it has also moved to provide strong protections against unauthorized transfers of domain names so it now requires registrars to verify the identity of the domain name registrant and use a clear standardized form of authorization to gain prior consent from that person or group before any changes are made.

As part of the policy, ICANN has also implemented a dispute resolution process to clear up conflicts that may arise between registrars when inter-registrar domain names transfers are requested.

Additionally, ICANN put in place a Redemption Grace Period Service that provides a 30-day period for domain name holders to reclaim their names if deleted unintentionally from a registry database, it said.

According to ICANN, the new policy will increase competition in the generic top-level domain name market, and could drive costs down by as much as 80 per cent due simply to the separation of the registry and registrar functions.

The global nonprofit organization has recently come under fire for rasing the fees it charges domain registrars as a way to boost its coffers, but has contended that it needs the increased budget if it is to carry out work such as reforming the market structure for the registration of generic top level-domain names.