Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Realtors Reach Settlement With Justice Department

I know. I know. I said I was taking a vacation from blogging.

But I keep reading these interesting articles.

Saw one in today's New York Times. The Justice Department and the National Association of Realtors settled an important lawsuit on Tuesday:
The deal frees Internet brokers and other real-estate agents offering heavily discounted commissions to operate on a level playing field with traditional brokers by using the multiple listing services that are the lifeblood of the industry, government officials said.

The Justice Department sued the National Association of Realtors in federal court in 2005 on antitrust grounds, charging that its policies were stifling competition and hurting consumers. That case was scheduled to go to trial in Chicago in July.

I have to admit, I didn't think the Bush administration had it in them to go to bat for the entrepreneur as opposed to the interests of Big Business.
“I was very pleasantly surprised,” said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, which tracked the case. “Given the reluctance of anyone in Washington before the Justice Department to improve competition in the real-estate industry, this settlement represents a milestone.”

The decision gives me hope that the Justice Department might actually take a look at Amazon's new policies with respect to forcing smaller publishers to use their proprietary POD press.
The agreement between the Justice Department and the Realtors’ association must be approved by a federal judge, probably this summer. As now structured, the deal bans the Realtors’ association from treating online brokers as different from traditional brokers or discriminating against them, and it ensures that they will not be excluded from membership in the listing service based on their business model.

In one instance, the Justice Department said an unnamed online broker was forced to shut down its Web site because all the traditional brokers on the local listing service, in response to the national association’s policy, had withheld their listings from the online broker.

Read the whole story here.

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