The Supreme Court of Canada has declined to hear an appeal from the Toronto Real Estate Board over a federal Competition Tribunal order on the restriction of home-sale data, effectively ending TREB's years of legal wrangling with the Competition Bureau.
The fight began in 2011 when the Competition Bureau, a federal watchdog created to protect consumers by investigating business policies and mergers, challenged TREB's policy preventing the publication of such information, saying it impedes competition and digital innovation.
The long-running dispute has pitted the Toronto Real Estate Board against the federal Competition Bureau, which argues that by limiting access to the data contained in its Multiple Listing Service, TREB insulates its members "from a new and potentially disruptive form of competition".
Lawyers and realtors have said that publication of the data will allow buyers and sellers to educate themselves on how to price their homes and negotiate without needing as much advice from real estate agents.
Real estate boards throughout Canada who now protect their data will likely also ease restrictions as they follow the powerful Toronto board's lead, he added.
"That's going to spread to other boards across Canada".
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Christopher Alexander, the executive vice-president and regional director of RE/MAX Integra's Ontario-Atlantic business, agreed. It has resisted the prospect of making that same data available broadly online through broker websites, even when the site is password protected.
The public can get such numbers now by turning to real estate agents and brokers, who have access to the Multiple Listing Service database, where sales data is compiled when deals close.
REW.ca's B.C. sales data launch took five years to arrange, mostly because the province's datakeepers wanted the company to demonstrate that it would be "good stewards of data", but also because realtors feared the public would misinterpret such numbers, said Moon.
"This is their opportunity to look at their policies and procedures and make sure they are in compliance with the Competition Act, that they are not abusing their dominant position in their respective markets as TREB was found to have done in this case", he told The Canadian Press. If the Supreme Court decides not to grant TREB's application for leave to appeal, the board would have 60 days to follow that order.
The ruling is "a decisive victory for competition, innovation and for consumers", Competition Commissioner Matthew Boswell said in a statement.
"People are looking at this to be some large shakeup in the industry but once consumers are at the negotiating table, they already have this information through their agents", she said.