Antitrust Enforcers Target Realtor Internet Practices

    September 9, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

The battle over online access to Multiple Listings Services pits traditional realtors against web-based ones.

Online real estate brokers can offer home buyers significant savings in commissions and fees. But to do so they need to have the same access to property listings that regular realtors do. The National Association of Realtors has been permitting realtors to selectively exclude listings from appearing in MLS, according to several sources.

Department of Justice investigators have been working on the problem for a couple of years. They have reached a point where their efforts at negotiating with the realtors’ trade group have gotten nowhere. A lawsuit filed in US District Court in Chicago charges the trade group with anticompetitive practices.

“The antitrust laws are designed to protect competitive markets that are open to new business models, and it’s wrong for a group of competitors to act to deprive some members of what’s needed to effectively compete,” said J. Bruce McDonald, deputy assistant attorney general in the department’s antitrust division, in the Chronicle.

Before the filing, the NAR trade group made a change to the opt-out provision, making it a blanket provision instead of a selective one. Mr. McDonald contends the changes still contain loopholes, and the process of filing the suit went forward.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.