NAR: MLS Policy Remains Pro-Competition

November 28, 2018

The National Association of REALTORS® reaffirmed its commitment Tuesday to maintaining MLS rules governing virtual office websites. The VOW policy, spelled out in a 2008 consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, was created to allow competition and technological innovation to thrive in the real estate brokerage business. The consent decree expired Nov. 18.

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“Despite low usage of VOWs, MLSs must remain committed to ensuring that brokers seeking to establish a VOW are able to obtain timely access to MLS data,” Rene Galicia, NAR’s director of MLS engagement,  writes in an article published on nar.realtor. “The work of the real estate industry and MLSs should not end at meeting the minimum requirements of the VOW policy. Keeping the DOJ’s initial concerns in mind, we should commit to supporting an environment where innovation, competition, and cooperation continue to thrive.”

In June, as the expiration of the NAR-DOJ agreement loomed, NAR General Counsel Katie Johnson said at a workshop with the DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission that real estate competition has grown fierce. She warned that intervention by regulators could have a stifling effect on that competition. “Our multiple listing services are the envy of the world,” Johnson said. “Regulators in other countries recognize the pro-consumer benefits of having an orderly marketplace, where all the information is located … and where there’s price competition.”

With nontraditional business models becoming more prevalent in real estate, MLSs can help promote and protect competition by figuring out ways to increase access to listing data and improve the consumer experience through new offerings to MLS members, Galicia writes. “MLSs are an essential partner for brokerages seeking to innovate their cooperation efforts through the handling of listing data. Ensuring fast and efficient access to quality, reliable, standardized data will allow brokerages and their technology partners to innovate and shape the cooperation landscape of the future.”

Galicia says any future changes to its VOW policy will be thoroughly vetted to ensure they would not only benefit the industry but also “steer clear of any potentially anticompetitive implications.”