AAI submitted an amicus brief asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the dismissal of a complaint from pocket-listing network PLS.com against the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and several of its affiliated multiple listing (MLS) services.
NAR has long dominated the market for residential real estate transactions and its affiliated MLSs have held a comparable monopoly on residential real estate listing networks. NAR has been the subject of multiple consent decrees from the Department of Justice over the years, including related to its MLS listing policies. PLS is a recent entrant to the residential real estate listing market, which sought to provide a nationwide electronic platform for pocket listings. Pocket listings are listings that contain less information about a property than a traditional MLS listing, and they are desired by buyers and sellers who wish to maintain privacy.
PLS alleged that, faced with the threat of competition from PLS’s nationwide pocket listing network, NAR and its affiliated MLSs conspired to enact a Clear Cooperation Policy that, effectively, excluded PLS from the market entirely. The district court, after hearing oral argument, dismissed PLS’s complaint for lack of antitrust standing and denied PLS leave to amend.
AAI’s brief argues that reversal is warranted because the district court baselessly imposed an “ultimate consumer harm” requirement for plaintiffs to establish antitrust standing and wrongly concluded the Clear Competition Policy was “competitively neutral” because the court did not understand the nature of platform competition. The brief points out that an “ultimate consumer harm” requirement contravenes the logic and purpose of the direct purchaser rule and would needlessly hamper private antitrust enforcement and burden courts. In the brief, AAI also argues that far from being competitively neutral, the Clear Competition Policy seeks to eliminate the ability of realtors and brokers to use more than one listing network, which reinforces the barriers to entry in this market from network effects.
The brief was written by AAI Vice President of Policy Laura Alexander. A group of law and economics professors, including Professors and AAI Board Members Josh Davis and John Kirkwood, filed a separate amicus brief in support of PLS.