Competition Bureau comes out swinging

by John Tenpenny25 Sep 2015
The fight between the Competition Bureau and the Toronto Real Estate Board got underway this week as the tribunal heard from a witnesses who said the release of data is something the public craves.

Bill McMullin, founder and CEO of ViewPoint Realty Services testified that his website receives dozens of privacy complaints a year about the sensitive real estate data it posts, but not for publishing the final selling prices of homes.

McMullin told the competition bureau that although ViewPoint does receive complaints about privacy, they are not for publishing the final selling price information, which is at stake in the case, but for other information – even though it is already widely available elsewhere.

He also said that the majority of consumers appreciate the fact that the data is available on ViewPoint's site.

“The vast majority of people clearly love what we do,” said McMullin, noting that ViewPoint has received an “enormous amount” of unsolicited positive feedback from its users.

The bureau is alleging that the real estate board’s practice of prohibiting agents from posting certain data on their websites, such as final selling prices, is anti-competitive.

The board argues it is trying to protect customers’ sensitive information as per the country's privacy laws.

John Rook, a lawyer representing the bureau, told the tribunal that the real estate board is standing between consumers and the data because it fears competition from online startups could spark a price war and lead to lower commissions for its member real estate agents.

Donald Affleck, a lawyer for the board, said TREB’s decision to prohibit its members from posting the data online was not motivated by a desire to lessen competition but rather with the privacy of buyers and sellers in mind.

COMMENTS

  • by 9/25/2015 4:11:23 PM

    The public also craves the latest iPhone. That doesn't mean it should be free or that the public should automatically get access to all of Apple's code so it can be reverse engineered or copied.
    Beyond the privacy concerns are more fundamental concerns regarding the government's right to infringe on proprietary information and technology developed and paid for by an individual or organization, whether that organization is a corporation, trade organization or whatever.
    Why is the CB not going after public access to insurance industries' data? Or the information the banking industry compiles as part of their decision making processes?
    Should I be allowed access to what my neighbour's mortgage loan terms are? I mean obviously it could help me negotiate my terms, right?
    Wrong. And therein lies the rub. Just as no two circumstances are alike in determining terms for a mortgage loan, no two properties are completely alike enough to be able to assist the average person in determining what theirs may be worth.
    So what do you have?
    1) Privacy issues
    2) Government infringement and regulation on the use of privately funded, developed and collected intellectual property
    3) Public access to raw information that is meaningless and is likely to cause confusion unless interpreted and compared properly

    Come on Competition Bureau, give up on your witch hunt that was started by the previous commissioner simply due to past personal relationships with bitter people who did not have sustainable business models.

  • by 9/26/2015 3:14:00 PM

    100% agree. There is enough competition out there. I as a realtor am not worried about who is undercutting their commission.
    Those who do usually don't stay in business long anyhow. The price of business is still low. It has been for over a 100 years.
    The public appreciates a realtor who is good at their job.
    Most people eventhough curious would not like to see their own private data exposed for just anyone to see.
    Curiosity is human nature.
    Why not publish insurance rates?
    They are a complete rip off.
    I'd like to challenge the Competiton Bureau to force insurance companies to reveal who is paying what and why for their car and home insurance. I'd also like to know what their payouts are.
    We can go on and on.
    Privacy is number one.
    If buyers are working with agents they'll get to know what they need to know to make an educated decision.
    If you ask sellers whether they'd want their private information published 100% of them would say NO!

  • by RealtorDefined 10/3/2015 3:42:48 PM

    Well said Real Estate Professional! The public (the government and the competition bureau) has to understand that not all information is good information. Let's say for instance, that for some economic reasons, a home had been sold at a price of 10K$ to 100K$ less a few years prior to be on the market again? It would be detrimental for that sellers at that point. As a Real estate professional I know for a fact that the objective of keeping sensitive informations is for the benefits of buyers and sellers, not for Realtors!

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