Competition Bureau says privacy is not the issue in its lawsuit

The latest shot came from the Competition Bureau, which accused the TREB of using privacy concerns to deflect calls to open up its Multiple Listing Service to consumers.

"If TREB is genuinely contesting the Commissioner's position on privacy grounds, then TREB's traditional member brokers must already be in widespread violation of the very privacy rules TREB claims to be concerned about, TREB cannot have it both ways," said a filing on behalf of Competition Commissioner Melanie Aitken.

Within hours, the TREB shot back, calling the comments “misguided and inaccurate.”

“The bureau continues to ignore the privacy concerns of Ontarians, and is pursuing a course of action that will not only open personal information of consumers on the Internet, but will negatively impact the quality of the Multiple Listing System,” said Richard Silver, President of TREB.

The Competition Bureau said it is looking out for consumers, but Silver insists the changes it is pushing would create privacy issues. Contact information would be available on the Internet, private information about property details would as well, and previously private contract details would be made available.

“The Competition Bureau has completely failed to explain how it is possible to release private consumer information on the Internet without unnecessarily sacrificing consumer privacy rights,” said Silver. “The commissioner continues to posture, but consumer privacy rights are too important for this kind of recklessness.”

After the Competition Bureau began pursuing the lawsuit in May, the TREB announced in June that it would pursue a password protected Virtual Office Website (VOW) for Realtors.  The competition commissioner wants the TREB to release private data about individual consumers on the Internet, including sale price and histories, as well as personal contacts.

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