Supreme Court won’t hear TREB appeal

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The Supreme Court of Canada – the country’s highest court – won’t hear an appeal case between the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) and the Competition Bureau regarding TREB’s restrictions on the data that Realtors post to MLS.

The back-and-forth case will instead land at the Competition Tribunal’s feet.

In May 2011, the Competition Bureau opened the drawn-out war by filing an application with the tribunal that claimed TREB was being anti-competitive by imposing restrictions that prevent Realtors from posting certain information from the MLS on their personal websites.

In its application, the bureau said TREB “denied real estate agents the ability to introduce innovative Internet-based real estate brokerage services, such as Virtual Office Websites (VOWs).” However, the tribunal ruled that the bureau failed to make its case under a certain section of the Competition Act, but that it might appeal the decision under other sections of the act.

And indeed it did.

The bureau brought the case to the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA), which in February ordered the tribunal to review the bureau’s case against TREB. TREB appealed the FCA decision to the Supreme Court, and here we are.

In a statement, John Pecman of the commission of competition, said the bureau welcomes 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, however, said: “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.”