Thursday, December 21, 2006

DOJ Antitrust Division and 2006

A press release issued earlier today by the United States Department of Justice's Antitrust Division emphasized some of the efforts the federal government has taken in the past twelve months to combat anticompetitive conduct in the real estate brokerage services sector. Cited examples included Civil Non-Merger Conduct ("In addition to its cartel and merger priorities, the Division enforces the antitrust laws against civil non-merger conduct that harms competition,which may involve agreements or single-firm action.") and Competition Advocacy (joint effort here with the FTC). For example:

U.S. v. National Association of Realtors
The Division's enforcement against anticompetitive agreements included its lawsuit against the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In September 2005, the Division filed suit after NAR promulgated rules that would limit competition from certain real estate brokers who use the Internet to serve their customers. In November 2006, the U.S. District Court in Chicago denied NAR's motion to dismiss. The case will now proceed to discovery.


Competition Advocacy in Real Estate
The Division, together with the FTC, has been educating policymakers and the general public about the benefits of competition in the market for real estate brokerage services. The Division provides information to entities considering rules -- such as rules that prohibit rebates to consumers or that undermine online brokerage models -- that would inhibit some types of competition that can lower the cost of buying or selling a home. During 2006, several states modified proposed or existing laws and regulations to enhance competition to the benefit of consumers. Delaware, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin all passed bills that included a waiver provision to enable individual consumers to choose not to purchase unwanted types of real estate brokerage services. The West Virginia Real Estate Commission, the Tennessee Real Estate Commission, and the state of South Carolina all lifted bans on consumer rebates in real estate transactions. The result is that consumers in these states now have the potential to save thousands of dollars on the purchase of a home.
Here's to an even busier 2007.

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