The Justice Department filed an antitrust suit against the National Association of Realtors in an attempt to foster competition from online brokers. I don’t know how big of a problem this is in this particular market, but it is nice to see Justice promoting competition. Let’s hope this new found realization that a competitive marketplace is required for the virtues of the market to be realized extends to other areas:
Antitrust Lawyers Go After Realtors, by Kirstin Downey, Washington Post: The Justice Department's antitrust division yesterday sued the National Association of Realtors, alleging that the powerful trade group is using its online multiple listing service policies to restrict competition from discount brokers offering lower prices…
In the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, where the Realtors have their headquarters, the government alleged that the association -- particularly its traditional broker members -- has sought to maintain a "policy that restrains competition from brokers who use the Internet to more efficiently and cost effectively serve home sellers and buyers." According to the federal filing, when real estate industry leaders developed their policy in 2003, …. The working group that formulated the listings policy understood that the right to opt-out would limit competition … members of the group said the opt-out right would be "abused beyond belief" as traditional brokers withheld listings from competitors. Albert A. Foer, president of the American Antitrust Institute, said … "This Justice Department is not trigger-happy," ... "They don't bring a lot of antitrust cases or operate in an anti-business mode, so chances are that they've thought it out very carefully." "It's great," said Peter Sealey, a professor of marketing at the University of California at Berkeley who has followed the issue. The policies "are a clear conspiracy and restraint of trade. This is long-overdue law enforcement."
Some of us believe in markets so much that we want to see the broken ones fixed.