CFPB investigates Zillow’s co-marketing program: What agents should know

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may decide to take legal action against Zillow Group for alleged violations of consumer protection laws.
  • Agents not paying their 'fair share' of advertising spend could be at risk of legal liability.

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Any mystery about whether Zillow Group was under federal investigation for potential anti-kickback violations cleared up last week when the company itself came clean. At the very end of its earnings call remarks, the real estate giant announced that for the last two years, the CFPB has been investigating its co-marketing program for compliance with the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). The program, launched in June 2013, allows “Premier Agents” who pay for advertising on Zillow Group's apps and websites to invite lenders to share marketing costs by paying Zillow Group to appear as “Premier Lenders” in advertising alongside the agent. The CFPB’s Office of Enforcement is considering whether to recommend that the CFPB take legal action against the company, alleging Zillow Group violated an anti-kickback provision of RESPA and a part of the Consumer Financial Protection Act that prohibits anyone from helping financial service providers deceive consumers. ...