A Competition Bureau case against the Toronto Real Estate Board, which represents many of the city’s and region’s realtor, has been rejected by a federal tribunal. The high-profile case had argued that web-based realtors should be allowed greater access to the data in TREB’s MLS system.
By: Susan Pigg Business Reporter
The federal Competition Tribunal has dismissed a high-profile case regarding access to MLS data on a technicality and awarded costs to the Toronto Real Estate Board.
In a decision released Monday, the tribunal ruled the case, which accuses TREB of anti-competitive behaviour, had been initiated by Melanie Aitken, former commissioner of the Competition Bureau, under the wrong section of the Competition Act.
The densely written, seven-page decision — reached after more than eight months of preparation and two months of hearings in Toronto last fall — came as a surprise to some close to the complex case.
TREB, the trade association for about 35,000 realtors across the Toronto region, had been taken to task by Aitken in an escalating battle that went back more than five years and was aimed at ultimately forcing real estate boards across the country to provide more open online access to MLS data.
TREB argued it was protecting its clients’ privacy and the proprietary MLS system.
The pressure to greater access was coming from a new generation of online competitors, led by brokers like Lawrence Dale, president of the now defunct Realtysellers Real Estate Inc., who were seeking better access to crucial MLS data such as the sales histories of houses.
The ruling, which leaves the door open to a refiling of the complaint, says the competition commissioner cited TREB under section 79 of the Competition Act when the more appropriate section would have been 90.
Section 90 governs the actions of trade associations, which don’t have competitors as such.
Source: Toronto Star