Court Revives Realtors Antitrust Suit

A private real estate listing service can sue the National Association of Realtors over a policy it allegedly adopted to protect its member-operated Multiple Listing Services against competition from “off-MLS” databases, a federal appeals court held Tuesday.

The 9th U.S. Court of Appeals revived the antitrust claims of The PLS.com, which a federal judge in Los Angeles dismissed last year.

PLS had pioneered a lower-cost, agent-only website for “pocket” or exclusive listings that the sellers did not want widely publicized. Its two-year-old business was thwarted in 2019, when NAR adopted the “Clear Cooperation Policy.”

The policy required Realtors to add all of their off-MLS listings to the regional MLS within one business day, or face heavy fines and possible termination of their access to the MLS.

“The Clear Cooperation Policy, as PLS characterizes it, shares all the hallmarks of a group boycott,” which was sufficient to survive NAR’s motion to dismiss, Circuit Judge Milan Smith Jr wrote for the 9th Circuit. He was joined by Circuit Judge John Owens and U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy III of Detroit, sitting by designation.

Mantill Williams, NAR’s vice president of communications, expressed disappointment with the decision on Tuesday.

“The Clear Cooperation Policy advances equal opportunity in housing by ensuring listings are widely available and accessible to all,” Williams wrote in an email. “We look forward to the next stage of this case, in which we will show the (policy) is pro-competitive and pro-consumer and consistent with all laws and regulations.”

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