Sowing Confusion Amongst Consumers
[Editor’s Note: see this for an update on how Edina Realty is responding to the practices(s) discussed in the following post.]
Imagine if an apparel maker ripped out its competitors’ labels, attached its own, and sold the mislabeled clothing to consumers as their product?
Or, consider what would happen if Panasonic slapped “Sony” on all its flat-screen TV’s.
In each case, the victim would scream “fraud,” and quickly put an end to the practice.
Yet the equivalent happens to Edina Realty and its agents online, thousands of times a day.
Mugging Data Stripping
What am I talking about?
The practice of various “broker wannabe’s” vacuuming up Edina Realty’s listings (at the moment, a market-leading 5,000-plus in the Twin Cities); stripping out Edina Realty’s name; and substituting their own.
Step 2: claiming on their Web site that they have the most listings, not Edina Realty.
Just because what’s being ripped off is information rather than goods doesn’t mean it isn’t theft.
What’s the motivation?
Specifically, the huge (and growing) online audience for real estate listings.
All that Internet traffic translates into eyeballs and advertising dollars — not to mention clients, and ultimately, commissions.
In fact, there’s another misbehavior that’s just as bad as the one described above: what I call, “selling your listings back to you.”
When someone “googles” any of my five current listings, neither my name nor Edina Realty’s is anywhere to be found.
Instead, what they find is are literally pages of other area brokers trumpeting my listing, with nary a mention of either “Ross Kaplan” or “Edina Realty.”
So, what would I have to do to vault my name to the top of Google’s “hit list?”
Pay Google an advertising fee.
Yup, that’s right: Google is willing to sell my listing — or at least the rights to it online — back to me for a fee.
The same chicanery holds on Trulia, Zillow, and any number of other third-party real estate sites.
“Thanks, but no thanks.”
As you can imagine, Edina Realty and its agents find the foregoing practices noxious and unethical, and are fighting to put an end to them.
More to come . . .
P.S.: Runner-up abuse: a sketchy local company that latched onto “theMLSonline” as its Web site name, thereby attracting literally millions of hits from consumers who would certainly appear to be visiting the company’s Web site based on the impression that it actually has something to do with the local Multiple Listing Service (“MLS”).
The MLS, of course, is the database that local Realtors use and maintain, and is the mother lode of all market data, current and historic.
It’s been awhile since I practiced law (like, 2 decades), but can someone please explain to me why that doesn’t constitute false and misleading advertising?!?