U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve dismissed the class-action lawsuit filed in May against Zillow. The lawsuit alleged Zillow’s Zestimate tool misled potential homebuyers into believing the Zestimates were actual, accurate appraisals.
Judge Amy St. Eve stated, Zillow’s Zestimates “are not likely to confuse potential homebuyers as they are simply a ‘starting point’ for home buying research.”
In June, our own Connor Wrenn, covered the contest Zillow held to fix Zestimates’ algorithm. This makes you wonder just how Zillow escaped the lawsuit, considering the suit alleged that Zestimates injured home sellers and builders because it listed properties with lower values than the asking price (hinting the algorithm was faulty and shortly thereafter, Zillow is holding a contest to fix said algorithm).
Judge St. Eve hints the reason is because Zillow states on their website that Zestimates are not necessarily accurate – which seems like quite the understatement.
Zillow has previously stated their algorithm “isn’t perfect.” Zestimates are within 5% of the actual sale price approximately 54% of the time; within 10% of the actual sale price approximately 76% of the time; and within 20% of the actual sale price approximately 90% of the time according to the lawsuit.
What about the rest of the claims?
What about the part that states Zillow’s practice is listing home values based on Zestimates’ algorithm was fraudulent since the company isn’t a licensed appraiser.
Under Illinois state law, it’s indeed illegal to offer an appraisal without a state license to do so.
However, Zillow was prepared for this allegation and stated that there is a section of the same law that allows “automated variations.” Judge St. Eve obviously agreed as she wrote, “the word ‘Zestimate’ – an obvious portmanteau of ‘Zillow’ and ‘estimate’ – itself indicates that Zestimates are merely an estimate of the market value of a property.”
On the brightside
On a positive note, however, the judge stated the plaintiffs would be allowed to re-plead three of the four claims:
- The claim that Zillow violated homeowners’ privacy by placing their homes on its site without their permission.
- Plaintiffs seek an injunction for costs and attorney fees under Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act (IDTPA).
- Plaintiffs seek damages, costs, punitive damages, and attorney fees based on the violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (ICFA).
Questions, comments, concerns
What do you think about the ruling? Do you agree with judge St. Eve, or do you think what Zillow is doing is unfair?
Zillow hit with double whammy discrimination allegations
(CORPORATE) Zillow is facing new allegations of discrimination between employees based on their gender and how unequally they were treated during a crisis.
We can all agree that violating the Americans with Disabilities Act makes you a capital D D-bag, right?
When a company (or CITY – looking at you, every tilted, rampless sidewalk in Austin) refuses to build accessibility, accommodations, and human GD dignity into their physical, corporate, and digital infrastructure, not only are they breaking the law, they’re being a bunch of unwiped butts.
Today, it looks as though my favoritest real estate site, Zillow, stands accused of being among that skidmark-leaving number.
Now because I’m too cute for defamation suits, I need to be 100%, crystal clear, like clear enough for a bird to fly into it, that Zillow has not been found guilty of anything. We’re going to report on the allegations and the suit brought against the company, but until Zillow gets their day in court, neither this esteemed publication nor I myself can say what definitely did or didn’t happen.
Said allegations are being brought against Zillow by Mr. Michael Cerce, and they’re as such:
Jane Doe at Zillow had her phone stolen, and was being harassed by someone awful, who also made mention of Mr. Cerce in their threats. Zillow stepped up and offered her protection with a security detail, all the days off she needed and… asking Mr. Cerce to step into danger for her.
Mr. Cerce further alleges that while Jane Doe rightly got paid days off to deal with her trauma, he wasn’t afforded the same resources, having his time off requests to take care of his mental health denied, having his concerns about company security dismissed, and not being afforded his commission payments during a leave of absence related to the stalking.
It might actually behoove me to say “the assumed stalking” though, as Mr. Cerce has come to believe he may have been collateral or intentional damage in a hoax perpetrated by Jane Doe.
So. Allegedly. Mr. Cerce was, I repeat ALLEGEDLY, discriminated against on the basis of disability as he was diagnosed with PTSD during counseling related to these allegations, as well as on the basis of sex as he claims a female employee was treated with more respect during similar travails.
To paraphrase the kids these days, that’s effed up if true.
It should be obvious, but because I know it’s not, I’ll say it anyway. Someone’s being a man doesn’t mean that said someone comes automatically equipped to shrug off being stalked, threatened, harassed, and denied opportunities for healing from an ordeal.
Furthermore, not all disabilities are easily visible, though according to witnesses named in the suit, Mr. Cerce was noticeably distressed for days at a time.
If the allegations are found to be true in a court of law, then Zillow’s got a pretty serious deal on its hands, and we’ll have more as the story develops.
No matter how things shake out in court, ideally, public spotlight of the case will lead more folks of the gentlemanly persuasion to continue standing up against ACTUAL unfair treatment regarding their physical safety and mental health.
Fingers crossed (and Covid triple washed) for justice.
Zillow’s patent game is strong – they just got 3 for IBM’s creations
(CORPORATE NEWS) This company was just granted not 1 patent but 3 on tech more than twice their age! What does it mean for you? Nothing good…
Welp. They did it.
We’ve been watching Zillow for some time now, and in the midst of even the strongest of OP Eds saying how terrible an idea it is, Uncle Sam officially handed them multiple patent keys to tech they didn’t invent.
How big do you have to be before you can clout jack with this much impunity?
I’m used to seeing this with small artists. Forever21’s Etsy spies find a cute, simple design, maybe do the work to alter the pallate a smidgen and rely on the ‘Matilda’s Dad’ strategy of “I’m smart, you’re dumb, I’m big, you’re little, I’m right, you’re wrong, and our lawyers will argue the same, peasant’.
But with technology, you can literally trace the code back to a source. It’s not like using teeth as a motif, it’s real, it’s definite, and it’s definitely really shocking that the government signed off on this.
Zillow’s not exactly startup sized, they’ve been in business since 2004. They’re a big name. Their competition probably can’t muscle their way in and out like they can. Matter fact, a company you may have heard of fighting them on patents has only been doing their doings since…wait, since 1911. Must be a tiny outfit, that was in some other business for over a century right?
What le freaque?
We all need to be concerned about this level of government sanctioned patent jacking, no matter what field we’re in.
I’ve heard before that if you’re just starting out, and low on funds, paying for your inventory and manpower are more important than filing anything with the government. Now we’ve got fresh, bloody proof that that’s 100% not true.
Your or your company’s intellectual property can be deeded off with a factor no more elaborate than whether the patent office likes your face that day, regardless of what kind of trail you’ve left, and as far as being run into the ground or laid off goes, that’s hardly a non-factor.
This decision represents a higher financial barrier to entry for everyone from Amazon entrepreneurs to realtors daring to use tech as basic as texting in their business.
Zillow’s patents, condensed for readability, are on:
Taking panoramic images for 3D walkthroughs
Multi-criteria search engines
And superimposing images scaled for size onto an area of land
Do all of those sound familiar? They should. We’ve been using that tech for years. And Zillow’s no Microsoft.
As always, we’ll have to see how this plays out. But if your New Year’s resolution was to take more bold steps in your business, maybe see if you can patent the idea of putting your picture in your email signature?
Apparently it couldn’t hurt.
Conductor buys their company back from WeWork (that’s a good thing)
(CORPORATE NEWS) In an effort to refocus, co-working giant, WeWork, is looking to offload many of its recently purchased assets which may work in the small companies favor.
Once upon a time, WeWork, the popular, ever growing, co-working space giant, was valued at $47 Billion. But on August 14th, 2019, everything changed.
In August, WeWork submitted its first IPO paperwork for the company, not realizing it would almost immediately face incredible scrutiny from various entities, such as investors and the press, in regards to its finances. Although the company’s revenue doubled in 2018, Business Insider found that the company wasn’t actually earning any profit. In fact, reporter Rebecca Aydin reported on July 3rd that the company was losing $216, 000 every hour of every day.
But that’s not all. Since WeWork went public, the company has witnessed an incredible devaluation, from $47 billion, all the way down to $8 billion. Now, since we’re talking about billions of dollars here, the devaluation may not seem like a big deal for the future of the company, but I can assure you it is.
This devaluation resulted in Softbank, WeWorks’ biggest investor, taking over, and offering $1.6 billion to then CEO, Adam Neumann, in exchange for stepping down.
Throughout their growth, WeWork acquired more than 20 businesses, such as Spacious, a small co-working space in Manhattan, New York. Spacious’ CEO prior to the acquisition was Preston Pesek, who launched the firm in 2016. Pesek had a background in real estate and founded the business to leverage and monetize abandoned buildings and restaurants.
Customers had easy access to these spaces for a nominal fee, but because of WeWork’s recent decisions with finances, it made the decision to offload quite a few of its previously acquired businesses, including Spacious. They’re also looking to liquidate Managed By Q, which was purchased by WeWork from founder, Dan Teran in April.
In light of this news, Pesek anounced that Spacious will close its doors at the end of the year, alluding to WeWork’s refocus on its core workspace business. But while Spacious is set to close, Teran has decided to fight to re-acquire his company. In a article on The Real Deal, writer Rich Bockmann states that Teran said he’s actively looking to buy back his company.
Conductor, another company WeWork purchased more than 2 years ago, has already been successful in purchasing its company back, and it looks like it may be a better setup for its employees than previously. Co-Founder, Seth Besmertnik, stated in an interview that, prior to the sale of Conductor, he actually only owned 10% of the company. But with the re-acquisition of the company, Besmertnik and his partners, investors, and employees will be in full control. He says that under the company’s restructuring, employees will have “more than four times what they did when we sold the company”, which is clearly a better deal than what they had before.
But WeWork isn’t just liquidating co-working assets they’ve acquired. They’ve also laid off 2,400 employees in an effort to cut costs. Additionally, they’re also considering selling and/or shutting down other ventures, such as Meetup.com, a web platform that makes meeting up with like-minded individuals as easy as possible (purchased in 2017 for $156 Million). WeGrow, an elementary school in Manhattan, is also on the chopping block.
At the end of the day, WeWork just wasn’t as strong as users, investors, business partners, and the general public thought they would be. At a current valuation of only $8 billion (again, down from $47 billion), and with a $9.5 billion bailout from Softbank, the company will have to get really smart with their remaining finances. It’s obvious that the company is still in a state of flux, reevaluating their options and their main focus, but the question remains – can they still be saved? Maybe even more importantly, are they worth being saved? Only time will tell.
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