TREB declined a REP request to comment on the decision to reschedule the hearing but confirmed it has, in fact, been moved from May and will instead be heard during the weeks of September 21 and October 5.
The Board has been in and out of court with the Bureau, which claims private sold data is anti-competitive. The move to reschedule the hearing, however, only further extends this lengthy legal battle, which began in 2011. Since then, the case has moved all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada, which in July refused to hear it.
At that time, John Pecman of the commission of competition, said the bureau welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision. “We continue to believe that prohibiting TREB’s anti-competitive practices and allowing real estate agents to provide the services of their choice is the only way to ensure that consumers and real estate agents alike can benefit from increased competition for residential real estate brokerage services in the Greater Toronto Area.”
TREB shot back: “The commissioner of competition is persisting in its efforts to erode the personal privacy and contractual safeguards afforded by the MLS system. TREB will continue to work to protect the personal information entrusted to it and its members by the general public, while it strives always to do what it can to ensure a highly competitive environment for real estate professionals in the GTA.”
Agents on the ground, however, have been divided over the issue. Some sales reps, such as David Fleming, argue publicly available sold data is a great educational tool that can better prepare clients.
“On a go-forward basis, we Realtors should be interpreters of information, not gatekeepers,” he adds. “It’s not our job to safeguard this information. The public will have access to it [eventually], our job is to advise and guide, not to hold back the information. There’s no real value in that.”
Other agents, though, point to the proprietary nature of the information.
“For the access to the information, the trends and data and graphs, we pay for that stuff as Realtors,” Elaine Smallwood says. “We shouldn’t have to give it away to the public for free. We have invested in this – it’s a business investment. To be told this isn’t yours, it belongs to the public, I believe the boards need to stand up for our rights, and that isn’t what’s going on.”
The Toronto Real Estate Board’s tribunal hearing with Canada’s Competition Bureau has been pushed to the end of September.