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Archived — Competition Bureau seeks to prohibit anti-competitive real estate rules

OTTAWA, February 8, 2010 — The Competition Bureau announced today that it will challenge rules imposed by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) that limit consumer choice and prevent innovation in the market for residential real estate services.

The Commissioner of Competition has determined that CREA's rules restrict the ability of consumers to choose the real estate services they want, forcing them to pay for services they do not need. The rules also prevent real estate agents from offering more innovative service and pricing options to consumers. The Commissioner's application to the Competition Tribunal seeks to strike down these anti‑competitive rules.

"Selling a home is one of the largest financial transactions that most Canadians make in their lifetime," said Melanie Aitken, Commissioner of Competition. "Consumers should be able to choose which services they want to buy in order to facilitate that transaction, including lower-cost options. While the Bureau would have preferred to resolve this matter amicably, CREA's leadership was unwilling to agree to changes that would have opened up competition, and offered options for consumers and real estate agents."

The Bureau's challenge is against rules imposed by CREA on agents who list properties on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system. The overwhelming majority of real estate transactions in Canada make use of the MLS system, which includes important information available only to CREA members. Before listing a property on MLS, agents must agree to comply with CREA's restrictions on the service options they provide to Canadian consumers.

For example, under CREA's rules, agents are prohibited from offering consumers the option of simply paying a fee for an agent to list a home on the MLS system. Instead, all consumers looking to list a property on MLS must purchase a pre-determined set of additional services from a real estate agent, such as the presentation of offers and negotiation of a final deal.

"The Bureau is focused on striking down these anti‑competitive rules, so that real estate agents wishing to offer innovative services can do so, and consumers can benefit from greater choice," said Commissioner Aitken. "While the market will ultimately determine prices for residential real estate services, we expect that if the Tribunal strikes down the anti‑competitive restrictions, there will be downward pressure on real estate fees in Canada."

Once filed with the Competition Tribunal, the full text of the Bureau's filing will be available on the Tribunal Web site.

The Competition Bureau is an independent law enforcement agency that contributes to the prosperity of Canadians by protecting and promoting competitive markets and enabling informed consumer choice.

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