The NAR-DOJ settlement is the gift that keeps on giving. To a blogger at least. Well, to a blogger that happens to be interested in such an obscure and unimportant topic.
The latest piece of information is throwing me from confusion directly into bizarro-land. NAR released a “Special Report” in which it announced that it and the DOJ has agreed on MLS policy. The relevant part is this:
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.
Say what now?
Here’s section (V) of the Proposed Final Order, entitled “Required Conduct”:
A. Within five business days after entry of this Final Judgment, NAR shall repeal the ILD Policy and direct each Member Board that adopted Rules implementing the ILD Policy to repeal such Rules at the next meeting of the Member Board’s decisionmaking body that occurs more than ten days after receipt of the directive, but no later than ninety days after entry of this Final Judgment.
Section V goes on to talk about implementing the new Modified VOW Policy (which was attached, and described as a Revised VOW Policy), setting up an Antitrust Compliance Officer at NAR, etc. It never mentions ILD or IDX ever again in the document.
The Revised VOW Policy mentions the term IDX exactly once, under section I. Definitions and Scope of Policy:
Participants’ Internet websites, including those operated for Participants by AVP’s [Affiliate VOW Partner], may also provide other features, information, or services in addition to VOWs (including the Internet Data Exchange (“IDX”) function). Section I(a)(3), Revised VOW Policy.
Nowhere else is “IDX” mentioned.
Now… about NAR’s “longstanding Internet data exchange (IDX) policy”… here’s NAR in 2005:
NAR has adopted a new policy to govern the display of MLS listings on the Internet. This new policy, Internet Listing Display (ILD),replaces NAR’s Internet Data Exchange (IDX) and Virtual Office Website (VOW) policies, and is effective immediately. MLSs have until July 1, 2006, to adopt the new policy.
This Internet Listing Display policy was specifically repealed by the Final Order.
So… NAR’s “Special Report” basically says this:
The Final Order validates NAR’s longstanding IDX policies by repealing them specifically, by name.
Lest anyone thinks this is just an unimportant little piece of legal trivia, we’re already hearing very confused things at OnBoard (my employer). While I don’t like to mix the day job and blogging, in this case, it’s extremely relevant. We’re hearing from clients that they believe this settlement affects them, despite the fact that they do not operate a VOW. We’re getting questions on whether this settlement affects them, and in one case, we have a client who believes he is now completely freed of all IDX rules.
I went searching for the old IDX Policy, circa 2000, and couldn’t locate it. But I did find ARMLS (Arizona MLS) IDX Policy of 2006 online, and there are provisions like these:
11. The name of the real estate brokerage that has the property listed must be displayed on the screen and in printed reports for each property where the property information is presented in a “Full View.” The real estate brokerage name must be displayed in the same font size as the listing information. For purposes of this policy, “Full View” means the display of listing information that includes seven or more data fields.
12. An IDX Broker may not modify, enhance or manipulate a Shared Listing. In addition, listing information from other sources may not be combined with IDX Listings. For instance, property listings from other multiple listing services, for sale by owner properties and properties not in the MLS may not be combined with the IDX Database.
Right now, it is not at all clear to me that someone taking an IDX feed from ARMLS has to obey these rules. Maybe I can decide not to display the name of the listing brokerage. Maybe I can modify or enhance a Shared Listing, and mix FSBO listings with the IDX listings. Even if the Revised VOW Policy says I can’t do those things, that only covers VOW’s, not IDX websites.
Here’s hoping that NAR acts swiftly to correct this serious gap in policy, because I can nearly guarantee that our client who thinks he is no longer bound by IDX rules is NOT alone.