Inman News reports that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against Realcomp II in a years-long case:
Michigan’s largest multiple listing service “unreasonably restrained competition” among real estate brokers by refusing to transmit exclusive agency property listings favored by discount brokers to Realtor.com and other public-facing Web sites, a federal appeals court has ruled.
At issue was whether Realcomp’s refusal to transmit Exclusive Agency listings to places like Realtor.com was anti-competitive. Since Realcomp’s policy only applies to a tiny fraction of listings in the market, Laurie Janik, the outgoing General Counsel of NAR, suggested this wasn’t that big a deal:
NAR General Counsel Laurie Janik said that because other MLSs don’t have similar rules in place, the appeals court ruling is unlikely to have a wider impact. “I’m sure it’s extremely disappointing news to the folks at Realcomp, but it’s not the kind of case that’s going to send ripples across the rest of the industry,”
That’s especially true since the NAR’s MLS Policy prohibits the MLS from excluding Exclusive Agency listings from feeds, as Realcomp had done.
Nonetheless, I respectfully disagree with Ms. Janik. I think this ruling will send ripples across the rest of the industry. At the very least, it should since the next case that comes down the pike will surely look at Realcomp II, Ltd. v. FTC as precedent.
(By the way, for the non-lawyer folks, this case is especially significant because it came from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The only higher court is the Supreme Court. At least within the Sixth Circuit, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, this ruling is binding. And throughout the country, the ruling will be extremely persuasive.)
Before we dive into why I think this ruling is significant, since I am doing law-blogging here, I have to say that this is in no way a legal opinion (I mean, c’mon, it’s a blog post) and that you should consult your own qualified legal counsel.