Deadline for MLSs to Adopt VOW Policy -- February 15, 2009

Dec 3, 2008 Michael Wurzer

In his post MLSs Under the Gun, Brian Larson alerts us that all NAR-affiliated MLSs must adopt a VOW policy on or before February 15, 2009, to comply with the settlement in the NAR/DOJ litigation. Brian also provides some excellent checklists to help MLSs, vendors, VOW operators, and others prepare for the new policies. These materials are must reading for anyone involved with MLS data.

For FBS’s customers, the RETS Manager built into the flexmls Web system will help you provide the persistent download required by the settlement. However, as Brian points out, you’ll need to work to define what is confidential data. Importantly, for this purpose, confidential essentially means cannot be distributed in any manner (including printed reports, emails, etc.) to anyone outside the MLS. This is going to be a very, very small set of fields and likely not the same as what MLSs traditionally consider to be confidential information.

One additional item I’d point out is that the MLS needs to provide a way for sellers to specify that they do not want their listing or, alternatively, their address, displayed on a VOW. If the seller does opt-out of having their listing or address displayed in the VOW, they also must sign a document that affirms they understand the listing won’t be available on any of the web sites. Importantly, a question Brian poses and I share is:

Does the MLS have an affirmative responsibility to ensure that none of the data feeds it provides to, IDX sites, syndicators, and other web sites, include the listings or addresses of sellers who have opted out of such displays? In other words, does an MLS act inconsistently with the policy if it distributes listings the seller has withheld under this section to or the like?

That seems like a tall order.

What questions do you have about implementing the policy? Comment here or, better yet, over on Brian’s blog, MLS Tesseract.