Is NAR a monopoly? This antitrust nonprofit thinks so
Last week, lawyers for PLS.com and the National Association of Realtors presented oral arguments in front of a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel about whether NAR’s ban on pocket listings, which are listings not posted on the Multiple Listings Service, violates antitrust law. PLS.com claimed that their product – high-end listings strewn across the country – was effectively ruined by NAR requiring its 1.5 million members to post on the MLS.
PLS.com’s case was dismissed by a lower court, but the company’s appeal drew interesting allies. One is the U.S. Justice Department, which filed an amicus brief arguing that the lower court erred. Another is the Washington-based American Antitrust Institute.
The author of that brief, Laura Alexander, vice president of policy for the group, declared that NAR is a monopoly. Whether it is a monopoly harmful to society, Alexander said, should not be judged just on how home sellers and buyers are impacted, but real estate agents in general.
In today’s episode of HousingWire Daily, Alexander expounds on her arguments and talks with HousingWIre Senior Real Estate Reporter Matthew Blake about why NAR is feeling the heat now, and what will come of the multi-pronged legal scrutiny against the trade group.
Here’s a small preview of the interview, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity:
Matthew Blake: With all that is going on in business today, why focus part of your efforts on real estate?
Laura Alexander: So, real estate is both a huge industry in terms of dollar figures and also a hugely significant industry in that a house is often the most significant investment of an individual consumer’s life.
But also this case concerns an antitrust issue involving network effects. And network effects are essentially where the value of a product to one consumer is increased by there being other consumers. And it involves a second antitrust issue, which relates to platforms like the MLS and the PLS, that are ways to connect buyers and sellers. And the listing service itself serves as where a connection can be made.
Courts are grappling with how to apply the antitrust laws that have been around for more than 100 years to these emerging markets that are increasingly subject to network effects and involve platforms, not just widgets. So in that sense, it’s a very significant case.
HousingWire Daily examines the most compelling articles reported across HW Media. Each afternoon, we provide our listeners with a deeper look into the stories coming across our newsrooms that are helping Move Markets Forward. Hosted by the HW team and produced by Elissa Branch.