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Tag Archives: realtor

Competition Bureau loses online-listings case against Toronto Real Estate Board

Tara Perkins – The Globe and Mail

The Competition Bureau has lost a high-profile attempt to force the Toronto Real Estate Board to make it easier for web-based real estate brokerages to compete, a case that was being closely watched across the country.

Comment: No, it was an attempt to make us share our database – the one we created, the one we paid for – with everyone. For free. It was a simple case, it was decided correctly.

The Bureau said late Monday that its case has been dismissed. A spokesman said that an appeal is possible.

Comment: Yes, because certain people will not rest until they destroy the real estate industry.

The case, which had been years in the making, came after the Bureau accused the nation’s largest real estate board, which represents about 35,000 agents, of anti-competitive practices. It alleged that the board was unfairly keeping data about home sales away from online services that threaten to compete with real estate agents and potentially eat into their commissions.

Comment: Yes, we were in trouble for keeping our own database of sales, sales by our members. Go to your local car dealership and ask them for Ford’s sales data for the past couple of years. In fact, demand it. Then sue them for it. That is exactly what was happening to us. Try forcing that same dealer to let you sell your car – on their lot. Same thing. We were supposed to let just anyone sell whatever they wanted on OUR system. It is ours, we built it, end of story. You want in, then hire a realtor. Or sneak in the back way with Property Guys or something other discount brokerage.

The matter was heard by the Competition Tribunal last fall, and the decision had been pending since then.

The Tribunal’s brief order, released to parties involved in the case on Monday,suggests that the Bureau filed under the wrong section of the Competition Act, and that a case argued under a different section of the Act (under which less extensive remedies would be allowed) could have been more successful.

Comment: As I said, people will not rest until I am out of a job. Thanks!

“This was a classic case of a legal technicality where nothing gets resolved,” said Lawrence Dale, head of real estate business at Zoocasa. “The Tribunal said the case was filed under the wrong section and has now steered the Bureau to re-file under the correct section. Once these technicalities are addressed, the fundamental issues still remain to be determined. How long that takes to get resolved is anyone’s guess.”

Comment: Hopefully we get the same decision ever faster this time.

For its part the Toronto Real Estate Board had argued that it was upholding privacy laws and protecting the personal information of home buyers and sellers.

Comment: Which was stupid. To be honest, I don’t know a single client of mine who would want all of their information out there for anyone to access. People’s names, what they paid for properties, when they bought, you name it. People do not want to share that information. But at the end of the day, it still comes down to it being our system. We built it, we own it. If you want on the Property Guys website, you have to pay them. If you want on MLS, you have a pay a real estate agent. I do not see how this is a hard concept to grasp. Mr. Dale is still mad over losing a lawsuit 10 years ago for misusing trademarks that were not his. Since then he has made it his life’s crusade to destroy real estate as we know it. If he succeeds, some 35,000 people will lose their jobs. Why is no one talking about that?

The case could have implications for real estate boards across the country, and the Tribunal’s decision comes at a time when home sales are now in a slump. Following a lengthy investigation the Bureau had filed its case in 2011, a year in which more than $40 billion worth of properties changed hands in the Greater Toronto Area via the Multiple Listing Service, earning the city’s real estate agents an estimated $2.2 billion. The Bureau had noted that the top five agencies earned more than 70% of the commissions in recent years, with two alone – Re/Max and Royal LePage – responsible for more than 40% of them.

Comment: How do you figure there was 5.5% paid out in commission? I rarely see 5% anymore, usually it is more like 3.5%. I think the real figure is more like $1.4-1.6 billion. Nice exaggeration, as usual.

The bureau argued that the real estate board, which operates the Toronto Multiple Listing Service system, had a stranglehold on the most accurate and up-to-date data about home sales and that rules restricting how real estate agents provide that information – including previous listings and previous sales prices – were anti-competitive because they deny agents the ability to set up new online services such as virtual office websites (VOWs). VOWs are password-protected sites on which consumers can search data on listings.

Comment: Yes, we have a great database of sales information compiled by our members working with their clients. We have no data on sales outside of MLS, that data belongs to others. Again, we created the data, we have no obligation to share it with those not willing to hire a realtor.

Rokham Fard, co-founder of Century 21 Regal Realty, said that if the Bureau had won the case his firm would have been able to put data about what homes have sold for in the past online. Right now consumers can request it from an agent in person, or by email, fax or phone, but cannot look it up themselves on the web.

Comment: And hopefully it stays that way forever. Even those fighting to open this all up, I doubt they want all of their personal information out there… And it certainly sets a terrible precedent for any organization or company that has compiled proprietary data through the course of their business. Courts could suddenly rule that this information, their property, was suddenly public domain. That would be a tragedy of epic proportions.

Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto Realtor with Century 21 Regal Realty. He did not
write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who are
interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.