Zillow files antitrust suit against real estate listing services

Seattle-based Zillow is suing real estate listing services across the United States, arguing the services are forcing out a Zillow subsidiary to maintain illegal monopolies.

If you’ve used Zillow to schedule a home tour recently, you’ve likely accessed a widely used, Zillow-owned scheduling platform called ShowingTime. That platform is now at the heart of the lawsuit filed in federal court in Arizona last week, in which Zillow and ShowingTime claim several multiple listing services are violating federal antitrust laws and attempting to secure a monopoly, harming real estate agents and home shoppers by phasing out ShowingTime. 

The suit names the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service, the Milwaukee-based Metro Multiple Listing Service and MLS Aligned, a collective owned by six listing services. Those six include the Arizona and Wisconsin companies, as well as a listing service covering Oregon and a small part of southern Washington. (The lawsuit does not name the Seattle-area Northwest Multiple Listing Service.)

Matthew Consalvo, CEO of the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service, said in a statement Friday, “We fully dispute the allegations, but have no additional comments as the matter will be [handled] by our outside legal counsel.” The other listing services did not respond to requests for comment. 

The case is the latest challenge to established real estate players, after an October federal jury decision dealt a blow to the National Association of Realtors and long-standing commission practices in the industry. 

Multiple listing services, many affiliated with the National Association of Realtors, are crucial actors in the real estate industry that collects and distributes listings of homes for sale. They also offer real estate agents data analysis, platforms to schedule home showings and other services.

Because most agents are members of their local listing service and use that service’s online portal, decisions about what appears in that portal can have widespread effects. 

According to the lawsuit, many listing services have incorporated Zillow-owned ShowingTime into their portals, allowing real estate agents to use the service to schedule home tours.

But in 2021, the year Zillow purchased ShowingTime, the listing services in Arizona, Wisconsin and elsewhere banded together to create MLS Aligned and build their own showing platform, Aligned Showings, rather than relying on a platform owned by Zillow, according to the lawsuit.

Until recently, the listing services offered agents the ability to use either ShowingTime or Aligned Showings, but the Arizona and Wisconsin listing services recently announced they will remove ShowingTime from their portals altogether.

Zillow argues the listing services have a monopoly in their regions because they manage so much access to property listing information and are the predominant way agents schedule home showings. By excluding ShowingTime, the listing services are “conspiring to exclude competitors” rather than competing “on the merits of their product,” Zillow and ShowingTime claim in the lawsuit. 

Zillow Chief Industry Development Officer Errol Samuelson wrote in an open letter this week that the company took the “unprecedented step” of suing the listing services because “agents in any MLS should be able to choose the products and services that best meet [their] needs.”

Having a platform like ShowingTime built into a listing service puts that platform in front of more agents, benefiting Zillow. Zillow and Redfin also incorporate ShowingTime on their websites to allow home shoppers to quickly schedule tours, according to the lawsuit. Zillow argues removing ShowingTime from the listing services will make its site less useful in Arizona and Wisconsin.

“By steering their captive members to their own product, defendants insulate themselves from competition and the need to innovate,” the lawsuit said.

The complaint seeks a court order to block the listing services from imposing their showing platform alone, plus unspecified financial damages.

This article was originally published by a www.seattletimes.com . Read the Original article here. .