The Commissioner of Competition v The Toronto Real Estate Board: The FCA Rules that Home Prices in Toronto Must be Made Public
By: SCOTT LIN – JD/MBA’2019, VP External of the JD/MBA Students’ Association, Caseworker w/Osgoode Venture Capital Clinic
Published by theCourt.ca / January 19, 2018
Serving more than 49,000 real estate brokers in the Greater Toronto Area, the Toronto Real Estate Board (“TREB”) is Canada’s largest real estate board. The majority of real estate transactions in Toronto make use of TREB’s Multiple-Listing Service (“MLS”), an online tool for brokers to help customers buy and sell homes.
In particular, the MLS tool provides information such as historical sales figures, pending sales and broker commission rates available exclusively to its member brokers. In other words, any homebuyer seeking this information has to obtain it through real estate agents who are TREB members. Real estate agents are allowed to share sales information with individual clients, but they cannot publish the data in bulk online, even on password-protected data feeds.
The Competition Bureau is an independent Canadian law enforcement agency that ensures that businesses operate in a competitive manner. Recently, the Bureau has taken an interest in TREB’s MLS practices, particularly with regards to whether or not they constitute anti-competitive behaviour. Below, I discuss how the TREB case has progressed through the Courts, the legal issues at play and the very real practical ramifications for homebuyers and sellers in Toronto.