Antitrust is based on a set of federal laws that tries to protect consumers by preventing competitors from coming together to restrain trade, fix prices, and/or boycott lawful business practices or businesses. These laws are especially important to REALTORS® because the real estate industry has been specifically scrutinized as we are a group of competitors who work together and cooperate on a daily basis. Intent to commit a violation is not necessary to run afoul of antitrust laws and the penalties are severe.
Antitrust laws focus on communications and agreements between competitors – people in different companies – not coworkers. Do not talk about your firm’s business practices with competitors.. Specifically, agents should avoid discussing individual firm policies, such as commissions, cooperating broker fees, and duration of brokerage agreements with anyone outside their company. Agents should also refrain from making statements to their clients such as “this is the rate every firm charges” or “no one will show your house if we don’t offer this commission” because this could imply that competitors agreed on those “standards.”
If you find yourself in a situation where it could be implied that competitors are coming together to restrain trade you must loudly dissociate yourself from the conversation. You should state that you are not in agreement, not a part of the action being discussed, and then leave the conversation immediately.
An antitrust investigation or violation is serious. If you are faced with a complaint, you should contact counsel immediately.