A federal court has issued an injunction against price-fixing by five Realtor associations in the San Diego area and Sandicor, a regional MLS owned by those associations.

The injunction stems from a March 2003 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Arleen Freeman vs. San Diego Association of Realtors, in which the court declared that Sandicor and the five Realtor associations had illegally fixed prices of MLS services in San Diego County.

The injunction was filed Jan. 21, 2004, in the federal district court for the Southern District of California in San Diego.

The associations have argued that their MLS pricing structure was designed to avoid the possible closure of the smaller less-efficient associations at the time the regional MLS was established. The court has rejected that argument as a defense against the price-fixing allegations.

“Inefficiency is precisely what the market aims to weed out. The Sherman Act, to put it bluntly, contemplates some roadkill on the turn-pike to Efficiencyville,” the court stated.

Sandicor is the 16th largest of the 1,600 MLSs that operate in the United States, according to Clareity Consulting’s rankings.

The lawsuit was brought in 1998 by David Barry of Barry & Associates, an antitrust law firm in San Francisco. Barry has filed more lawsuits against Realtor associations than any other law firm in the country.

“This injunction finally brings some competition to San Diego,” Barry said in a statement.

The five Realtor associations that own Sandicor are the San Diego Association of Realtors, North County Association of Realtors, Pacific Southwest Association of Realtors, East San Diego Association of Realtors and the Coronado Association of Realtors.

Sandicor did not return a telephone call seeking more information about the case.

Barry’s fourth attempt to obtain class-action certification for the case was rejected Dec. 4, 2003, by the federal District Court in San Diego.

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