Toronto Real Estate Board Fights Ruling Allowing Expanded Housing Info

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TORONTO -- The Toronto Real Estate Board is appealing a landmark ruling by the Competition Tribunal that would allow its realtor members to post sales data online, arguing that the decision violates the privacy of homebuyers and sellers.

The quasi-judicial tribunal ruled back in April that the board stifled competition and digital innovation by preventing its realtor members from posting information on their websites about home sales from its Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

The board was ordered last month to include in its home sales data feed information it currently does not disclose, including sales figures, pending sales and broker commissions. Under the tribunal's ruling, realtors would be allowed to share that information, as long as users are required to register to access it, though sellers would be allowed to opt out of having their addresses and listings posted online.

toronto condo construction
Condos under construction in Toronto. (Photo: Canadian Press)

The case, which has been ongoing since 2011, has been closely watched across the country, as it's expected it could affect how other real estate boards provide services to their customers online.

The Toronto Real Estate Board said the tribunal "erred in fact and law'' when it ruled that the board's practices lessened competition.

"The Toronto Real Estate Board has never done anything but support competition amongst our members, and we've always supported innovation as well."
— TREB CEO John DiMichele in an interview with the Canadian Press

The board, which represents about 45,000 realtor members, says its policy is intended to protect personal financial information and argues that posting that online would amount to a breach of consumer privacy laws, including the new Digital Privacy Act that came into effect last year.

The tribunal gave the board until Aug. 3 to comply with its ruling. The board has applied for a stay to postpone that until its appeal is resolved.

"We are working to meet the order deadline and comply,'' TREB CEO John DiMichele said. "But we have serious concerns, as we've laid out, so yes, we are appealing and asking for a stay.''

The board says it filed its appeal with the Federal Court on Friday.

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