Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Realcomp gets political

Realcomp recently issued a "Call to Action" on its website in connection with its public website policies that are under scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission. An administrative complaint was filed by the agency last year against Realcomp challenging these rules, and the matter is set to go to trial this summer. As you may know, I wrote several posts about this case in December 2006.

The FTC, an independent agency charged with safeguarding competition and protecting consumers from unfair trade practices, maintains a docket of the case on its website. Notably, Realcomp is the only MLS that has refused to comply with the FTC's directives on this subject after the FTC filed a complaint, and is one of only two MLSs nationwide that have been named in administrative complaints by the FTC in connection with such policies. Meanwhile half a dozen other MLSs have already reached relatively timely settlements with the agency with respect to similar rules.

In its "Call to Action", Realcomp is looking for support in defending its rules that prohibit the transmission of exclusive agency listings to public websites. Exclusive agency listings are typically employed by innovative, non-traditional real estate brokers who desire to offer new choices and lower costs to consumers. Realcomp is encouraging its subscribers to contact the FTC and Michigan's U.S. Senate delegation to register their opinions, this while an adjudicative action is pending before an FTC administrative law judge.

Realcomp claims that "to [its] knowledge, the FTC has received only a few complaints against Realcomp regarding this specific policy." It also suggests that the FTC's enforcement action would force brokers to work for no compensation, and penalize them for being in such great demand. In its defense of its rule, which bars exclusive agency listings from being transmitted to public websites like, Realcomp states that use of "should be reserved specifically for the purpose of marketing properties represented by REALTORS®." This statement does not seem to hold water, given that Realcomp, per its challenged rules, has presumably been barring the exclusive agency listings of such brokers from being transmitted to

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