The Money that Powers ‘Free’: When a Discount Costs you More

By Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices CEO Chris Stuart

There’s a 130-year-old giant whose been largely “napping” for the past 40 years. But, it appears that the D.C. machinery is gearing up to poke the old giant into action. And who is this giant? It’s the FTC’s antitrust laws born in 1890. The Wall Street Journal’s Jacob M. Schlesinger, Brent Kendall and John D. McKinnon address the escalating situation that could put some of the world’s largest tech companies in the antitrust spotlight in their article, “Tech Giants Google, Facebook and Amazon Intensify Antitrust Debate.”

Here’s what interests me and, I believe, what should interest all of us: To what extent will these companies’ ownership of consumer data play a role in the antitrust outcome? What portion of the antitrust opinions of regulators will be based on ownership of consumer data? And, what do regulators believe those companies’ ownership of that data would entitle them to do in terms of squashing competition, increasing prices or negatively influencing markets (to the detriment of consumers)?

What fascinates me is this: It could turn out that the overwhelming mountains of personal data these companies have compiled are the tipping point “asset” that turns the antitrust giant into their biggest nemesis. And they didn’t pay a dime to get it! For the most part we, the consumers, have been willing participants in this exchange of the world’s newest, and potentially most valuable currency, “data!”

We naturally understand that our time is worth money, our skills are worth money, our working output is worth money. But so, too, is our personal data, our behaviors, where we like to eat and shop, and the amount of time we spend reading posts on social media. This information is incredibly valuable. So, just because it doesn’t “COST” you anything, doesn’t mean there isn’t value in protecting it.

As it relates to the real estate industry, understand that a company’s desire to give you a “discount,” or offer something of value for “free,” could be tied to the company’s ability to capitalize on something else you’re giving it that’s worth a whole lot more.

Make sure you’re dealing with companies and professionals that trade on the world’s oldest, and most valuable currency, TRUST!

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