Since the dawn of time, hucksters have been selling phony products to the naïve and frightened. The best phony products are those no one can prove phony. Take the old Medicine Shows. They sold hundreds of elixirs for any number of physical ailments. None of them worked! But, no one could prove they didn’t. The lone exception being Bayer Aspirin’s, Heroin Cough Suppressant. (It really did take care of that pesky cough)
There are a lot of stupid products you can buy. There is the “Amazing Banana Slicer”. (Amazing, the softest consumable on earth needs its own kitchen appliance) Or, how about the, “Fur-lined Toilet Seat”. (Think we’re kidding?) For the most part, people who buy these things deserve what they get. But, real trouble comes when phony products become so accepted they actually become a multi-million dollar a year industry. Such is the case with the; “Pay-for-Leads” industry.
If you have spent any time being real estate agent, chances are you bought into a program where you paid for “leads”. Given that, I am guessing, 95% of you felt ripped off. Those “leads” were as phony as a three dollar bill. And, like elixirs before it, you couldn’t prove it? I will also bet, you said things like; “it’s better than nothing”. I have heard dozens of agents, who pay for leads, knowing they are fake, tell me they do so because; “you never know?” Actually we do. Statistically, agents would have the same success using a telephone book.
As use in Social Media platforms increased, so did the number of phony lead businesses. Realtors have been preyed on particularly hard in large part, because the Association (NAR) looking out for their best interest, is also in the lead “selling” business. But hold on: those days may finally be on the wane!
Meet Our New Heroes!
They are: John Herkenrath from California and Tina Wilson from Ohio. These two Nobel candidates have filed a class-action lawsuit against Realtor.com and News Corp. subsidiary Move Inc. A three-count complained filed in Los Angeles alleges the company defrauded real estate agents by failing to deliver viable leads. And, the inner voice of thousands sighed; “no shit!”
“Realtor.com fails to deliver what it claims”. The lawsuit refers to the Realtor.com leads as, “useless”. A Realtor.com spokesperson is quoted as saying, “the allegations are without merit!” Without merit? Really? So, everyone one of the Realtor.com leads is a pristine sales nugget?
It is truly mind-boggling the National Association of Realtors is telling its million-plus members; nothing to see here. When tens of thousands of their members feel they have been taken advantage of, NAR steadfastly sticks to their claim it’s the agent, and not the lead that is the problem. Clearly, NAR is much more concerned about their revenue stream over the concerns of its membership. (Sidebar: NAR is increasing annual dues again this year)
The beauty of this lawsuit is it will finally shed light on the “pay-for-leads” industry. For example, the lawsuit points out a Realtor.com user inquiring about 5 properties is sold back to various real estate agents as 5 different leads. Pretty neat trick, selling the same person 5 times! Realtor.com is going to have to explain how that is NOT the definition of FRAUD!
Realtor.com or Move Inc, promises agents a certain amount of leads per month. Ever wonder how they can they make that promise? In truth, they never deliver their stated volume. And, the lawsuit alludes to Move Inc. as, NOT owning the technology that would allow for such predictions.
This lawsuit also dovetails nicely with an earlier suit filed against Move Inc. from former Move sales rep Brian Bobik. Brian was fired from Move Inc. for refusing to participate in what he believed to be unlawful conduct. The conduct included: lying to Realtors, charging for services never ordered and billing agents’ credit cards without authorization. And, remember, these are the folks overseeing a monopoly of enforced membership to a million+ people!
Go John and Tina!
Their complaint demands a trial by jury! The lawsuit seeks class-action status and proposes to include EVERY AGENT who paid Move Inc. for leads, as of April, 20 2014. Whoa! That’s a lot of agents.
The law firms involved are: Berokim & Duel, P.C. http://www.berokimduel.com, and Arias, Sanguinetti, Wang & Torrijos. https://aswtlawyers.com/
Full disclosure: Wynd Realty has never bought leads from Realtor.com. We wasted our money with Zillow.com leads. How they haven’t been sued yet is beyond me.
The good news is, whatever happens in the Realtor.com case, it will have a far reaching impact throughout our industry. And with that, HOPEFULLY, a start to the end of the predatory practices of selling phony leads and fake promises.