Trulia, LLC is the defendant in a proposed class action lawsuit centered on the real estate listing website’s alleged practice of buying billboards that point potential buyers to its “Premier Agents” rather than the traditional brokers who’ve listed a property. The nine-page complaint argues New York’s General Business Law requires Trulia to conspicuously and adequately disclose listing agents to prospective property buyers.
According to the complaint, Trulia buys billboards to advertise property listings made available by traditional real estate brokers yet promotes the property as for sale by its own “Premier Agents.” The lawsuit argues that the billboards, which the case says include a picture of the property and a phone number for potential buyers to call, make it less likely that a consumer will contact the property’s actual listing agent, and more likely that a possible buyer would reach out to Trulia’s “Premier Agent.”
As the case tells it, Trulia’s website is no better when it comes to directing potential buyers to a property’s listing agent. When a prospective buyer clicks through to a property listing on Trulia’s website, they’re given the option of either contacting a Premier Agent who, the case says, “they believe to be the listing agent,” or submitting their contact information. Information collected through the latter option, the lawsuit says, gets transmitted not to the property’s listing agent but to Trulia’s employees who screen the details before sending them along to a Premier Agent.
Further still, the complaint charges that Trulia’s website harms traditional brokers with how their information is displayed on the webpage. While Trulia’s Premier Agents have their contact information, pictures and recent sales highlighted, non-Trulia listing agents’ information “looks similar to a website that ceased updating in 2007,” the lawsuit claims, “ gray, non-inviting and lifeless.”
In the event a prospective homebuyer is contacted by a Trulia Premier Agent, the individual is often unable to provide many details given they have “no actual connection to the property being advertised” other than having their face displayed next to the listing, the lawsuit goes on. At issue, according to the plaintiff, is that Trulia’s Premier Agents have incentives to direct their leads to properties “where they, not the prospective homebuyers, get a better financial arrangement,” namely to maximize commissions. All told, the lawsuit claims Trulia’s conduct not only harms traditional listing agents, but causes consumer confusion and frustration.
“As a result of Defendant’s conduct, plaintiffs have lost numerous potential customers and will continue to lose customers and money until the illegal and deceptive practice is put to an end,” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit proposes to cover a class of all real estate brokers in New York.