Four days after launching a lawsuit against the National Association of Realtors for alleged anticompetitive practices, federal agencies are planning a public forum to discuss competition in the real estate industry.

The U.S. Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission will jointly host a one-day workshop on competition policy and the real estate industry next month, the agencies said.

The workshop will be held on Oct. 25, at the FTC’s Satellite Building Conference Center located at 601 New Jersey Ave. NW, in Washington, D.C.

The workshop is free and open to the public and aims to provide a forum on the competitiveness of the residential real estate industry, focusing on topics such as multiple listing services, discount and limited-service brokers, and minimum-service requirements.

In particular, discussion will center on the real estate transaction, the multiple listing service, and private and state actions that affect competition among brokers.

Parties seeking to participate as panelists in the workshop must notify both the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the FTC in writing on or before Sept. 25. Persons submitting a request to participate as a panelist will be notified on or before Oct. 11, if they have been selected.

The Justice Department on Thursday filed an antitrust lawsuit against the National Association of Realtors challenging the trade group’s policies for Internet listings. The lawsuit charges that NAR’s Web listings policy is anticompetitive because it blocks new brokerage companies from entering the market.

NAR’s newest Internet listings policy was made public last Thursday. It combines and eliminates two previous policies for Web listings display.

NAR asserts that the Justice Department “mischaracterized the purpose and effect” of a part of the new policy that enables brokers to restrain their listings from being shown on other brokers’ Web sites. The trade group has said that part of the policy “was intended to protect brokers’ ownership rights in their property listings.”

NAR officials had been in discussions with the Justice Department since May, seeking a compromise that would’ve relieved antitrust officials’ concerns.

The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the FTC are accepting public comments on the issue until Nov. 28. Comments may be submitted in hardcopy or electronic format. For more detailed instructions on how to submit comments, see the Federal Register Notice.

Last week’s lawsuit is the latest in a multilevel attack on the industry. The Justice Department earlier this year filed a lawsuit against the Kentucky Real Estate Commission over its restrictions on real estate rebates. The suit was settled in July, when the state commission lifted the ban on rebates.

Also, Justice Department and FTC officials have been sending out warning letters to states considering adopting legislation or regulation that could inhibit some discount and limited-service brokerage models.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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