RISMEDIA, May 28, 2008-The National Association of Realtors® has reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, resolving litigation between them regarding how listings from multiple listing services are displayed on brokers’ virtual office websites. According to NAR, the proposed final order, to be filed with the federal district court in Chicago, validates NAR’s longstanding Internet Data Exchange (IDX) policy and strengthens the rule governing participation in multiple listing services.
“This is clearly a win-win for the real estate industry and the consumers we serve,” said NAR President Richard F. Gaylord. “Today I can say with the clear knowledge, reinforced and underscored by DOJ’s settlement compromise, that the real estate industry is dynamic, entrepreneurial and fiercely competitive. Thanks to Realtors®, consumers can access detailed information about millions of properties for sale across the country.”
The final order expressly provides that NAR does not admit any liability or wrongdoing and NAR will make no payments in connection with the settlement.
The terms of the agreement preserve and strengthen the MLS as a means for broker-to-broker cooperation intended to serve real estate professionals who are actively engaged in listing or selling property in that MLS, said Laurie Janik, NAR chief counsel. “This will ensure that MLSs are used for what they were originally intended to do – to help real estate professionals find buyers for people who want to sell their homes.”
NAR will be reinstating an updated version of its Virtual Office Web site policy. That policy was rescinded in 2005 when DOJ challenged certain provisions. In September 2005, the Department’s Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago, against NAR challenging policies and related rules that obstructed real estate brokers who use innovative Internet-based tools to offer better services and lower costs to consumers. The Department said that the policies prevented consumers from receiving the full benefits of competition, discouraged discounting, and threatened to lock in outmoded business models. The case was scheduled to go to trial in July 2008 before Judge Matthew F. Kennelly.
The revised policy continues to protect the rights of sellers who do not want their property or their property’s address displayed on the Internet. The new policy also protects sellers from having false or other unwanted information about their listings appear on the VOW of an MLS member.
“Today’s settlement prevents traditional brokers from deliberately impeding competition. When there is unfettered competition from brokers with innovative and efficient approaches to the residential real estate market, consumers are likely to receive better services and pay lower commission rates,” said Deborah A. Garza, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division. “In addition, under this settlement, NAR will foster compliance with the antitrust laws by educating its members and its 800 affiliated MLSs.”
“NAR’s efforts in today’s challenging real estate market are focused on what matters most to consumers – re-energizing the housing market,” said Gaylord. “Competition is alive and well in the real estate industry. In fact, the competitive nature of our industry is even more apparent in times of market turmoil like those we are currently experiencing.”
Working with regulators and lawmakers at all levels of government, NAR is pushing for actions that will get the nation through the housing and mortgage crisis and positively affect families and the U.S. economy. In the current housing market, the value of Realtors® and the services and resources they provide, including the MLS, has never been greater.
“The DOJ implicitly acknowledges the value brought to the real estate market by the more than 800 MLSs across the country to make buying and selling a home easier. The MLSs are healthy, solid and sound, and will continue to deliver benefits to members and consumers. Consumers have long been able to access and view consolidated property information online, and thanks to Realtors®, consumers in increasing numbers can successfully use the Internet in their home search process,” Gaylord said.
“Encouraging innovation and competition in real estate has been NAR’s hallmark for 100 years,” said Gaylord. “NAR members represent almost every conceivable business model, including full-service, limited-service, discount models, and others.”
“As we move into our second century, Realtors will continue to protect consumers in the real estate transaction, ensure the public’s continued access to real estate listings, and work tirelessly on issues related to private property rights, homeownership, and housing issues of importance to all Americans,” said Gaylord. “Now that this has been resolved, we can fully focus on finding ways to re-energize, stabilize and strengthen the housing market and look out for the best interests of homeowners and those who aspire to that American Dream.”
For more information, visit www.realtor.org/DOJ.