By Tony Palermo

The Toronto Real Estate Board is appealing the Competition Tribunals recent decision which found, in part, that TREB has engaged in anti-competitive acts.

In an email statement to REM, TREB confirmed that they have filed a Notice of Appeal and are reviewing the Competition Tribunal’s recent order with their legal counsel, but are saying little else, stating that “the matter is still before the courts.”



TREB did not respond to any other questions, including who is representing them for the appeal. But a copy of the appeal, which was filed with the Federal Court of Appeal in Toronto on May 27, lists the solicitors for the appellant (TREB) as Jeff Rosekat and Jacqueline Horvat with Toronto’s Sparks LLP and William Sasso of Sutts Strosberg LLP in Windsor, Ont. TREB was represented at the tribunal hearing by Toronto lawyers Don Affleck, David Vaillancourt and Fiona Campbell from Affleck Greene McMurtry LLP.

The 14-page appeal document cites approximately 40 Grounds of Appeal, more than 30 of which allege the Competition Tribunal erred in its determinations.

Competition Bureau spokesperson Taylor Bildstein says TREB is still required to fulfill its obligations within the 60 days prescribed in the tribunal’s order, unless TREB obtains an order from the Federal Court of Appeal within that timeframe temporarily staying the order.

At press time, it remained unclear if TREB will be seeking a temporary stay of the order. Attorney Jeff Rosekat referred all questions back to TREB, which is not commenting beyond the original media statement.

In the meantime, some are celebrating the order as a win.

“The Competition Bureau’s decision is a big win for consumers and for competition in the real estate brokerage industry,” says John Pasalis, president of Toronto-based Realosophy Realty, which operates a virtual office website (VOW). “While I can appreciate opening up MLS data to consumers may be a bit unsettling for some TREB members, the reality is U.S. real estate brokerages have been displaying the sold prices of homes online for more than a decade. TREB’s policies were behind the times.”

Pasalis says the tribunal ruling will allow his company to develop new public tools that will enable consumers to do some of their own research.

He says Realosophy will also be able to mine the data to find underlying trends in the market, in particular neighbourhoods or condo buildings, which are not obvious by just looking at sale prices.

“Sold data is now a commodity,” says Pasalis. “The real value for our clients is in the hidden insights we can extract from this data.”

Rokham Fard, co-owner of the Toronto-based TheRedPin brokerage, agrees, adding that consumers are looking for more useful information in a quicker fashion – something that technology can deliver. The problem, he says, is that the real estate industry remains one of the few sectors that have lagged in embracing the power of technology. In fact, it was this recognition that led to the creation of TheRedPin in 2010 which, according to the company’s website, was seen as an opportunity to reinvent the way people bought and sold properties.

“Consumers are looking for this real-time and near-real-time type of experience,” says Fard. “Companies like Uber, which can have a car at your door in three minutes or where you can have your favourite pizza delivered at the click of a button – these types of companies have really set the consumer’s expectations.”

Fard says having access to important current and historical real estate data allows for the innovation of all kinds of technology tools that can provide the consumer with real time insights and detailed examinations for their research – especially when it comes to predicting trends.

As an example, Fard says to consider markets where bidding wars are common. Predictive technology tools can analyze all of the relevant data, including sold prices, and predict to the consumer how much a property is expected to sell for.

Predictive technology tools can also help the consumer get the house that they really want.

“Maybe someone really wants to buy a house in the Yonge and Eglinton area of Toronto,” says Fard. “They might see one come up for sale and jump on it, even if it’s not the perfect house for them, because of that fear of missing out. So, they pull the trigger. But predictive analysis tools can help that consumer be more patient and give them the opportunity to plan ahead by forecasting what homes might come up for sale in a given area, and when.”

As he says, it’s about providing the consumer, whether they are buying or selling, with an enhanced experience by giving them relevant information that is based on real data, not opinion, and is delivered to them almost instantaneously.

“It’s all about providing the detailed, real-time experience that the real estate consumer wants and expects,” says Fard.

Check remonline.com for the latest updates.

9 COMMENTS

  1. “Sold data is now a commodity,” says Pasalis. “The real value for our clients is in the hidden insights we can extract from this data.”

    Consumers typically pay for commodities and the “sales price data” was always something of value — so, has Tony Palermo incorrectly quoted Pasalis? The “real value” is in the hidden insights, but that has always been the case and consequently has no bearing on the Tribunals decision.

    Even when it comes to semi-detached homes one side can be substantially different than the other: one lot may be nicer than the other, the inside finish could be different, and if resale, one side could be better maintained than the other. So, is the value in consumers having unfiltered access to sales price data really about taking advantage of technology for their sake and the creation of a more altruistic industry, or is it more about those Brokers who can’t see their Registrants making 150 contacts (a recent Jerry Bresser reference, here on REM) before making a single sale — I’m thinking the latter.

    • Hi Mike,

      Came across an old REM discussion – scroll down to comments section, regarding privacy topic, from another perspective:

      http://www.remonline.com/the-paperless-real-estate-office/

      It isn’t just an issue apparently not addressed at the Tribunal, as you so note, but rather throughout the industry as a whole; completely unmanageable, yet punishable.

      All the talk about PIPEDA and such, yet controlling privacy in the industry is almost impossible, and certainly in regard to the current debacle, if the letting loose of sold information is approved before sold numbers and related pieces of information are actually registered at LRO, and completely subject to change until such registration is completed and open for public viewing.

      Carolyne L 🍁

  2. Forgive me if this sounds too simplistic. And yes I realize that the nuances of this case are more complex than the following solution. Sales data is accessible to anyone via Land Registry Offices. The issue seems to be speed and convenience. If companies like Realosophy and The Red Pin wish to publish the sale prices of homes could they not gather the data from the Land Registry Offices. Yes it would cost them $8 + HST per search. That is the cost of accessing the data once it is made available for public consumption. This would be accessing the public infrastructure available to them. This is what I as a Real Estate Broker have to do if I can’t find the information via my Real Estate Board’s sales data.

    The data as collected, stored, maintained and distributed by TREB is not public after the sale transaction has been updated by TREB. The data is the property of TREB and therefore TREB should determine how the data is managed.

    As an example of this absurdity consider the following: Google is by far the market leader in Search Engines in Canada. 88% market share according to http://goo.gl/RDrNa4 Should Google be required to provide any user data it collects via it’s search engine infrastructure to its competitors simply because the data is now a commodity or that consumers are demanding it. They created the search engine, maintain the algorithms, store the data and pay to keep the lights running. Sound familiar?

    Once last point before I end my rant. Comparing the way our U.S. counterparts operate their access to sold data to the way TREB does it is mute. We are two sovereign countries with different ways of operating including different laws (I certainly would be concerned if we applied the same logic to how we manage access to firearms in Canada). And if you would like to take this logic further, in the U.S. there are multiple Real Estate Boards which service the same geographic areas. If the owners of The Red Pin, Realosophy and other companies wishing to make this data public would like to do so there is little stopping them from creating their own Real Estate Board. They can call it the Open Data Real Estate Board of Toronto. They then could distribute all the data that they collect…..oh yeah problem is, they would have so few members, so little data that their business plan wouldn’t work.

    Ian Graham
    Broker
    Royal LePage Team

    • But keep in mind that TREB should be acting in the interests of ALL its members and not discriminate against members who have “non-traditional” business models. It’s clear that many members would like easy access to the sold data to improve their VOWs and provide better service to their clients. Unnecessarily restricting use of this data is what has gotten TREB into hot water. This case is not about releasing data to the general public, it’s about releasing data to its own membership for use in password-protected VOW sites.

    • Well said Ian!!! TREB info belongs to TREB and its members.
      Let people that want to access information pay TREB dues, become members and access the information.

    • TREB (or any trade group), its governance structure and operation are not comparable to Google. TREB is member-owned cooperative comprised of a group of competitors who set policy and pool their resources for the advancement of members’ business interests. Google is an independent business and makes independent decisions to advance its business interests. Any organization which amalgamates the interests of a group of competitors is subject to specific provisions in the Competition Act intended to prevent such organizations from discriminating against any member or class of members. The Competition Tribunal applied Section 79 of the Competition Act and via a highly detailed and rational 170 page analysis determined that TREB violated the Act by abusing its dominant position by imposing restrictions on members which desired to operate “Virtual Office Websites” (VOWs) as a means to distribute information which was acceptable to be distributed (and being distributed) by members who do not operate VOWs. Simply put, the Tribunal determined that TREB’s practices were anticompetitive.

  3. It is NOT accurate to say “Sold data is now a commodity,” (as quoted herein).

    The whole debate of this Tribunal-TREB case is whether the price and terms of Firm-Agreement-Awaiting-Completion-Date (FAACD) transactions are public information or private information.

    Once the agreement closes and the transaction is registered, INDEED the price does become public, but before closing, this Buyer-paid & Seller-accepted information has always been deemed “distributed in trust” to provincially-educated, REBBA-Registered and RECO-Insured members of TREB and RECO to pass on to specific clients and customers under the supervision of those members – together-with their guidance and interpretation .

    Before this two-staged, National government-enabled rebellion against the purposes and intentions of the Sellers’ written permissions and instructions in the TREB Seller Representation Agreement concerning distribution of the Sellers’ (and their Buyers’) Firm-Agreement-Awaiting-Completion-Date (FAACD) transactions, there was never any question about who was “client” and therefore whose interests were paramount.

    The Tribunal-TREB quintessentially demonstrates the unlimited propensity of government(s) to champion wrong-headed causes against specific, private individuals in the name of potentially-improved conditions for an unspecified, possibly-disinterested general public.

    May saner minds prevail at the appeal!

    Robert Ede
    Sales Representative
    RE/MAX Hallmark Realty Ltd
    Toronto

    • “… but before closing, this Buyer-paid & Seller-accepted information has always been deemed “distributed in trust” to provincially-educated, REBBA-Registered and RECO-Insured members of TREB and RECO to pass on to specific clients and customers under the supervision of those members … ” Deemed by whom? Is there a specific rule for that in Ontario? If the information is truly private, the FAACD price should not even be entered into the MLS database until completion date and no listing or selling agent should ever disclose the FAACD price to anyone except those that need-to-know (conveyancers, lawyers, notaries, etc.).

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