Competition Tribunal rejects TREB’s Constitutional challenge

A constitutional challenge put forth by the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) was rejected Tuesday by a Competition Tribunal which stated the board was too late in filing its objections to a hearing on TREB’s alleged anti-competitive practices.

The rejection comes after news of a hearing held over claims of anti-competitive practices over its listings on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) website. The board denied newly-launched discount brokerage firms access to the listings.

TREB initially filed the claim on August 24, two weeks before the hearing began. In the claim, TREB stated that the federal competition commissioner does not have any authority over the real estate industry, which is controlled by the province of Ontario.

In this case, the most critical issue is whether or not real estate boards can maintain the rights to exclusive control over the MLS system. This control would allow them to block new online brokerages from viewing key data figures including previous sale prices.

Realtors typically access the MLS online database in order to provide certain information to their clientele. This information enables the realtors to assist their customers in making fair offers for properties based on the prices posted. Customers generally gravitate towards properties with a high number of clicks and a price that is within their pre-specified range.

The discount online firms targeted by TREB say that the board has been slow in its adoption of new policies for online competition. The Canadian Real Estate Board, which intervened on TREB’s behalf, states that there are a number of privacy issues regarding the data that can be downloaded from the MLS database.

The hearing is scheduled to continue on Wednesday, September 12.

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