OTTAWA, September 10, 2012 — The Commissioner of Competition's case against the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) begins today before the Competition Tribunal. The Competition Bureau is seeking to ensure new and innovative real estate brokerage services are accessible for consumers through the Internet by prohibiting anti-competitive practices by TREB.
In May 2011, the Bureau announced that it had filed an application with the Tribunal seeking to prohibit TREB's anti-competitive rules that restrict how its member agents provide information, such as previous listings and previous sale prices, to customers, thereby denying agents the ability to introduce innovative real estate brokerage services using the Internet, such as through Virtual Office Websites (VOWs).
VOWs are password-protected websites that permit customers to search a full inventory of listings containing up-to-date data online, before making the decision to tour a home or attend an open house. This enables customers to be more selective and focused, and agents to spend less time trying to find an appropriate property for a specific customer.
"Many real estate agents are eager to offer new, innovative services for consumers through the Internet," said Melanie Aitken, Commissioner of Competition,
"but TREB's anti-competitive behaviour is essentially restricting potential homebuyers and sellers from taking advantage of a greater range of service and pricing options when making one of the most significant financial transactions of their lives."
With approximately 35,000 members, TREB is the largest real estate board in Canada. It owns and operates the Toronto Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system, which contains current property listings and historical information about residential real estate purchases and sales in Toronto and the surrounding area. The majority of local real estate transactions make use of the Toronto MLS system, which is an essential tool for agents to help customers buy and sell homes. It is much more detailed than what is available on public sites, such as Realtor.ca. For example, the Toronto MLS system contains data about previous listings and previous sale prices.
While agents can provide detailed MLS listing information not available on Realtor.ca to customers by hand, mail, fax, or e-mail, TREB's anti-competitive practices effectively prevent agents from providing similar MLS listing information to customers via VOWs. As a result, there are currently no VOWs operating in the Toronto real estate market that enable customers to search a full inventory of listings.
The Competition Bureau, as an independent law enforcement agency, ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace.
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