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.