The state flag of Pennsylvania behind a gavel and scales of justice.
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

New commissions lawsuit names Pennsylvania MLS, brokerages 

West Penn MLS and multiple brokerage companies are defendants in the latest buyer-broker commission suit filed Monday by home sellers in Western Pennsylvania.

December 5, 2023
2 minutes

The buyer agent commission lawsuits continue to spread. This week, a new case naming West Penn MLS and several local brokerages was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

West Penn MLS is based in Pittsburgh and serves around 9,000 members.

What is the case about? This lawsuit, filed on Dec. 4, is similar to others filed in recent weeks following the Sitzer/Burnett verdict in Missouri. This complaint alleges the defendants enforced the buyer broker commission rule throughout Western Pennsylvania, unfairly forcing home sellers to make an offer of compensation to buyer agents. This resulted in home sellers paying between 5-6% of the total sale price in broker commissions.

Who is involved? The proposed class action lawsuit was filed by a group of home sellers: Spring Way Center, John and Nancy Moratis, and Nancy Wehrheim. 

Spring Way, a limited liability company, sold a home in September, while the other plaintiffs sold homes in 2021.

If class status is granted, the class would include anyone who sold homes listed on West Penn MLS in the past four years using one of the named defendant brokerage companies and paid a commission to the buyer's broker.

Defendants named with West Penn MLS are Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty, Coldwell Banker Realty, Piatt Sotheby's International Realty, NextHome PPM Realty, Realty One Group Gold Standard, Realty One Group Platinum and Realty One Group Horizon. A variety of co-conspirators were also named, including the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors.

History: This is not the first time that West Penn MLS has been involved in litigation. In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint alleging anticompetitive practices. The FTC said the MLS's rules "effectively barred brokers who offered 'unbundled,' flat-rate, or otherwise innovative service packages from becoming subscribers," according to court documents. That case was settled, with the MLS agreement to change its policy. 

In 2010, a home seller brought a class-action antitrust lawsuit alleging that West Penn rules restricted competition among real estate brokers. The class included homeowners who used four discount brokerages while those rules were in place between 2005 and 2009. The MLS settled in that case as well, paying $2.38 million in damages.

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