Complaint Against MLS Dismissed

Administrative court says certain MLS provisions don't violate antitrust issues.

July 1, 2008

An administrative law judge has ruled that a Detroit area MLS policy eliminating exclusive agency listings from its property feed to public Web sites was not a violation of federal antitrust laws. This allegation, which had been filed by the Federal Trade Commission, charged that an MLS owned by REALTORS® unlawfully targeted exclusive agency listings for special treatment.

Some discount brokers primarily used exclusive agency listings, which give the owner the right to sell the home without paying a commission. The MLS’s public display policy included the exclusive right-to-sell listing but removed exclusive agency listings from its feed to REALTOR.com and from its IDX feed. Brokers could view these listings on the internal MLS site, but only if they checked a box on the screen.

In reaching a decision, the judge determined that the MLS’s Web policy was not anticompetitive, as the FTC claimed, because brokers could still submit exclusive agency listings to the MLS site. In addition, said the judge, the FTC had not demonstrated that these policies had damaged the business of discount brokers.

Further, because brokers with exclusive agency listings could have their listings displayed on public sites such as REALTOR.com if they paid a small extra fee, the practice did not violate antitrust laws. The judge decided that the MLS’s decision to institute the Web policy as a way to prevent sellers who would not pay a commission to real estate brokers from using the free advertising of the MLS was justified and not anticompetitive. FTC commis­sioners were expected to affirm or deny the decision by early June.

(Realcomp II Ltd., Dec. 2007)

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