03/02/2015 05:06 EST | Updated 03/02/2015 05:59 EST

Zoocasa To Stop Publishing In-Depth Housing Data, Amid Industry Attempts To Control Info

Colin McConnell via Getty Images
TORONTO, ON - MAY 16: Lawrence Dale group head of real estate business for Zoocasa and President Carolyn Beatty taken in their office on May 16th 2013. Rogers Communications next week will venture into real estate world in a big way with relaunch of website Zoocasa, a site where house hunters can connect with a stable of realtors hand-picked and vetted and backed by Rogers. (Colin McConnell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Zoocasa, one of Canada’s only real estate brokers that has opened up property data to the public in an online database, says it will stop publishing deeper housing data at the request of the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB).

It is the latest move by Canada’s real estate industry to rein in access to consumer information in a years-long saga to maintain the primacy of realtors in home deals and prevent them from going the way of travel agents in the digital era.

The website, which lets users view properties on a map and connects them with realtors, said Monday that it will stop sending out a daily email of sold properties in order to respect TREB’s authority over the data, said Darryl Mitchell, Zoocasa’s broker of record.

“The sharing of this data has been a small part of our customer offering,” he said, adding that the website’s goal is to match home buyers and sellers with agents to provide that information.

The Toronto Real Estate Board, which is currently locked in a legal battle with Canada’s competition watchdog over whether it is breaking the law by forbidding in-depth information on publicly-accessible websites, issued a letter last month to its members warning them that sharing sales data could result in their suspension from the Multiple Listing Service, the Globe and Mail reported.

The Competition Bureau said Monday that it couldn’t comment on the latest twist in a years-long battle with TREB because the case is before the courts.

The watchdog believes the Toronto Real Estate Board’s current rules, which maintain realtors must provide in-depth real estate data by email, fax, phone or in-person, prevent realtors from using technology to do their jobs more efficiently and giving consumers more choice.

Although the ban on such sites is widespread at boards across the country, the Competition Bureau targeted the Toronto board because it will have the greatest impact on consumers.

The outcome of the case, which will be heard this spring, could shake up the entire industry, the way a similar case against CREA’s U.S. counterpart opened the information floodgates in that country.

After years of fighting over real estate agents’ right to post in-depth MLS information on their own websites, the U.S. National Association of Realtors and the Department of Justice reached a settlement in 2008.

It paved the way for a new era of buying and selling homes in the United States. Now sites such as Zillow and its recently acquired competitor Trulia allow consumers to do much of the initial searching by themselves.

— With earlier reporting

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