The National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC) began its follow-up years ago to the Idealista real estate portal, the network of agencies Look & Find, CDC Franquiciadora Inmobiliaria, Witei Solutions; Anaconda Services and Real Estate Technologies and Multiple Service of Exclusivas Inmobiliarias SL (MLS) for altering housing market prices . It is not clear if he did it because of a complaint or ex officio. But the fact is that the inquiries have been translated into a file "for the direct or indirect fixing of prices and other commercial conditions of real estate brokerage with particular impact on residential housing."
Idealista, the largest search platform for homes in all of Spain , is a portal for both sale and rental where more than one million ads for apartments or houses are published every day. The investigation does not place the price alteration in the ad panel, but in the algorithms and software that the company sells for real estate agencies. The agency considers that the practices carried out through these digital tools by the companies investigated translated into an increase in the price of the products they sold .
The previous investigation to bequeathed to the opening of the file announced yesterday has been active for years but it was last November when it entered a new phase when investigating the headquarters of the affected companies.
In the coming months the CNMC technicians will determine the scope of their research, which has analyzed behaviors at local, regional and national levels and focuses on the software for managing real estate portfolios and the algorithms of these platforms the possible agreements for the alteration of prices.
Idealist denied yesterday "emphatically" any participation in the practices investigated. Fernando Encinar, spokesman , said that “the software is a neutral tool to manage real estate portfolios; it is the use that agencies have made of that software that can lead to an investigation ».
CNMC sources indicated that the investigations focus both on the software of franchises and agencies and on "algorithms that have had special relevance in the illegal conduct under investigation." The basic function of the algorithms in the digital platforms is the crossing of data to offer results based on different criteria (cities, districts, type of housing ...) that users and customers introduce.
The investigation itself is already a leap forward from the surveillance agency, since it is the first time that it files a file against companies for the use of algorithms , a common tool in the operation of digital platforms and oriented to transport services, tourism , commerce, advertising ... In this case, the operation of the software and the algorithm resulted in an increase in the price of housing and, therefore, illegal conduct. The CNMC assumes that price coordination would have been implemented through these tools.
The scale reached by Idealista in the search market and housing offer in its 20 years of life and the collaboration with other companies is the one that would have an effect on the real estate market, which in recent years has suffered a sharp rise due to stoppage of construction, foreign investment or the entry into the market of new practices such as residential tourism through other platforms such as AirBnB . This scale has been used by organizations such as the Bank of Spain to use Idealist prices as the basis for some of their price evolution statistics.
Idealista is a success story of a new generation company linked to the digital world. Its founder, Jesús Encinar, started the business in 2000 and in 2015 sold most of the business to the Apax Partners investment fund.
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