National Association of Realtors and the Dept Of Justice agree on a settlement

The settlement between the DOJ and NAR may mean you have to register first before using the search features of the this web site. I’ll keep you posted as we learn more, but here is the latest from Mondays ruling.
NAR has reached a favorable settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, resolving the litigation between them over the display of listings from the MLS on brokers’ virtual office Web (VOW) sites. The final order, to be filed with the federal district court in Chicago today, validates NAR’s long-standing Internet data exchange (IDX) policy and strengthens the membership rules governing multiple listing services.

“This is clearly a win-win for the real estate industry and the consumers we serve,” says NAR President Richard F. Gaylord. “Today I can say with clear knowledge, underscored by DOJ’s settlement compromise, that the real estate industry is dynamic, entrepreneurial, and fiercely competitive.”

The order caps a three-year long battle between NAR and the Justice Department, which filed a lawsuit against the association in 2005 calling it anti-competitive for brokers to have unlimited say in where and how their clients’ listings are displayed on other brokers’ VOWs.

The final order expressly provides that NAR does not admit any liability or wrongdoing, and NAR will make no payments in connection with the settlement. The terms of the agreement preserve and strengthen the MLS as a means for broker-to-broker cooperation intended to serve real estate professionals who list or sell property in that MLS.

“This will ensure that MLSs are used for what they were originally intended to do, which is help real estate professionals find buyers for people who want to sell their homes,” says Laurie Janik, NAR’s general counsel.

NAR will be reinstating an updated version of its VOW policy, which governs the use of MLS data for brokers who offer brokerage services online by requiring customers to register with the brokerage before they can search for homes. That policy was rescinded in 2005 when certain provisions were challenged by DOJ.

The revised policy continues to protect the rights of sellers who do not want their property or their property’s address displayed on the Internet, and also protects sellers from having false information about their listings appear on the VOWs of a member of the MLS. Among other things, the revised policy requires brokers hosting others’ MLS data on their site to turn off features — such as home value estimates and blogs — surrounding a listing at the request of the seller.

The agreement requires MLSs and local associations that operate MLSs to pass and implement the amended VOW policy within 90 days of the court’s approval of the final order.

The revised policy comes at a time when brokers appear to be moving away from the VOW business model. “The response to VOWs hasn’t been great because consumers can find sites throughout the Internet on which to gather information without having to register their name and contact information,” says Mark Lesswing, NAR’s chief technology officer.

Read more about the DOJ settlement and related issues at REALTOR.org.

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