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TREB, Competition Tribunal dispute 'complicated'

Toronto real estate lawyer Patrick Aulis says the ongoing battle between the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) and the Competition Tribunal is “complicated” and involves balancing homebuyers and sellers' privacy with economic freedom.

“At the end of the day, it’s open capitalism versus privacy,” he says.

According to the Canadian Press, TREB — which represents about 45,000 realtor members — “is appealing a landmark ruling by the Competition Tribunal that would allow its realtor members to post sales data online, arguing that the decision violates the privacy of homebuyers and sellers.”

The tribunal ruled in April that the board engaged in a practice of anti-competitive acts through its restrictions regarding the use of Multiple Listing Service (MLS) information.

“The Toronto Real Estate Board said the tribunal ‘erred in fact and law’ when it ruled that the board's practices lessened competition,” the news wire service reports.

The tribunal gave the board an Aug. 3 deadline to comply with its ruling, but TREB applied for a stay to postpone that until its appeal — filed with the Federal Court on July 8 — is resolved.

Aulis tells AdvocateDaily.com that TREB has some valid concerns about online brokerages.

“If you allow information around sales figures, pending sales and broker commissions to be disseminated on the Internet, then the concern seems to be these virtual brokerages can get this information and market properties,” he says. “From a purely capitalist perspective, this will probably create some additional competition within the marketplace."

However, Aulis says this less-restrictive access to information will also allow realtors from other jurisdictions to compete with local realtors.

“In a sense, this could undermine local businesses in favour of a more globalization,” he adds.

Right now, only licensed realtors are able to access this information around sales figures, pending sales and broker commissions.

"If you are a homebuyer and you want to find out what someone paid for a similar house in the neighbourhood, your realtor can get that info off of the existing TREB system and will give you a  report,” Aulis says.

“The person who has access to that info is a licensed realtor who has been vetted and licensed by TREB.”

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