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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Senators from the United States are examining Zillow’s antitrust activities. Acquisition of $500M ShowingTime

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(ShowingTime Photo)

On Thursday, Sen. Ken Buck (Republican from Colorado) and Senator Mike Lee (Republican from Utah) wrote a letter to the FTC raising antitrust concerns about the residential realty industry. They specifically addressed Zillow Group’s proposed acquisition of ShowingTime for $500 million. Axios first reported the news.

This letter, which can be viewed in its entirety below, highlights growing antitrust scrutiny of tech giants across a variety industries. It is also the latest antitrust-related criticism against Zillow in Seattle.

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Zillow, which is based in Chicago and sells software that facilitates home shows, announced that it would pay $500,000,000 to purchase ShowingTime.

According to Republican Senators, the agreement, still in limbo, could “further entrench Zillow’s consumer information advantage, to the detriment homebuyers, and their competition.”

Zillow acquired Trulia for $2.5 billion in 2015. The regulators reviewed the acquisition. Since then, the company has “made additional acquisitions” and is now a broker. This allows it to compete directly with agents and brokers who depend on these tools.

Zillow’s homebuying company and Zestimate, its property valuation tool are mentioned in the letter. Other acquisitions include Dotloop, Bridge Interactive and StreetEasy purchases.

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The letter states that “while the consumer experience may benefit from some technological innovations in real estate, antitrust enforcers need to be vigilant to ensure the competitive environment and that the online industry is not becoming overly concentrated in the hands to the detriment to competition and consumers,”

The congressmen added that Congress is working to solve the difficult competition issues with the dominant technology platforms on so much of the internet. Zillow may be able to show that ShowingTime’s planned acquisition could benefit consumers, real estate agents, and brokers. However the antitrust regulators must carefully examine any anticompetitive effects.

Below is a Zillow statement sent to GeekWire

ZIllow, ShowingTime and their acquisition of ShowingTime were announced. They have been constructively working with the FTC in the thorough examination of the transaction.

It has been our mission to “turn on the lights” for consumers. We give them access to information that was previously difficult or hidden through tools like the Zestimate. Zillow tools aim to promote transparency, simplify and increase choice. They allow customers to find local agents to help them in their real estate journey, whether they’re renting, buying or selling.

Our mission revolves around our efforts to modernize real estate transactions, which have been resistant to change in the past. We are helping to move the real estate industry toward a digital future where all brokers and agents can use ShowingTime.

Earlier this year Zillow was hit with an antitrust lawsuit filed by Austin-based real estate startup Real Estate Exchange that accused Zillow of anticompetitive behavior related to how certain homes are shown on its platform.

Zillow announced in February it would use ShowingTime technology to help its Premier Agent business. This helps real estate agents generate leads. According to the company, ShowingTime will remain an open platform that is accessible to everyone as it did with Bridge Interactive and Dotloop.

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This deal, which would rank second in price behind Trulia’s 2015 purchase of Zillow, is Zillow’s largest acquisition. This is the 17th acquisition of Zillow to-date.

Zillow has acquired ShowingTime to continue its investment in Zillow Offers (its home-buying/selling service).

The pandemic and real estate boom has helped drive recent growth for Zillow, which saw revenue climb 70% to $1.3 billion for its most recent quarter. Premier Agent revenue grew 82% over the previous year to $348.7M.

Rich Barton, Zillow’s CEO and founder of Zillow said that Zillow has made rapid progress in creating a seamless and integrated experience for its customers and partners.

Below, you can read the entire letter. Lina Khan is the new FTC Chair. She was elected in June. The criticisms of Big Tech have drawn attention to her letter. Amazon is asking for Khan’s exclusion from antitrust investigations into its purchase of MGM Studios, worth $8.5 billion, by way of a request.

In March, Sen. Lee issued a statement criticizing Khan’s nomination to the FTC, noting that “her views on antitrust enforcement are also wildly out of step with a prudent approach to the law.”

Publited Fri, 13 August 2021 at 18:47.44 +0000

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