The real estate portal Immoscoop has infringed competition rules, Antwerp’s commercial and business court ruled on Wednesday.
Immoscoop is a cooperative that was founded in 2016, grouping 565 real estate agencies. The portal has grown strongly since its creation, particularly in the Antwerp region.
"As far as the number of visits is concerned, we are in 4th place nationally. In Antwerp, we are second or even first," Wim Peleman the cooperative's spokeperson said. "In other areas, we have organic growth."
Legal proceedings had been launched against the portal by Belgium’s largest real estate website and its competitor, Immoweb.
According to Immoweb, Immoscoop violated competition rules, and sued its competitor, and the five founding estate agencies, believing that "Immoscoop differs from other sites in that it is not neutral" and "only serves the interests of real estate agents."
Real estate agents who join Immoscoop are committed to announce available real estate online via Immoscoop's portal.
The provision is contrary to Belgian competition law, the judge ruled on Wednesday.
When Immoscoop affiliated agencies place ads on Immoscoop's platform for a specific buffer period of a few months, they are boycotting other real estate sites, according to Immoweb.
The Antwerp Court has judged that Immoscoop’s reworked charter "aims nothing less than to exercise a totally illegal monopoly."
The charter defines the buffer period during which properties cannot be offered on other sites.
The larger Immoscoop’s market is at a given postal code, the longer the buffer period is.
Immoscoop argued that this measure was only a proposal and that it had not yet been approved, but the judge rejected this argument.
The Brussels Times