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The Competition Bureau is suing the largest real estate board in Canada, alleging the Toronto Real Estate Board is preventing agents from creating new services that would lower costs for consumers.
The Toronto Real Estate Board represents 31,000 agents, and operates the Multiple Listing Service for the region. The Competition Bureau alleged Friday that the board is “restricting how its member agents can provide information from the Toronto MLS system to their customers, thereby denying member agents the ability to provide innovative brokerage services over the Internet.”
The listings system that agents have access to contains more information than the public can see on Realtor.ca, the Canadian Real Estate Association's hub for listings.
While agents can provide customers with that data by hand, mail, fax or e-mail, the Competition Bureau said the board's “anti-competitive practices effectively prevent agents from providing the same MLS listing information to customers via a password-protected Web site.”
This prevents agents from setting up “virtual office web sites,” which would permit customers to search a full inventory of listings containing all of the available data.
“This enables customers to be more selective and focused, and agents to spend less time trying to find an appropriate property for a specific customer,” the Competition Bureau said in a statement.
“Today, consumers are demanding a greater selection of service and pricing options when buying or selling their homes and many agents are eager to accommodate them,” said Competition Commissioner Melanie Aitken. “Yet TREB’s leadership continues to impose anti-competitive restrictions on its members that deny consumer choice and stifle innovation.”