By Heino Molls
Here are the three most important aspects about the recent Competition Tribunal hearing, in my sole and humble opinion.
The first is that the outcome of these hearings will have the most profound impact on the industry since the advent of what people in the real estate community refer to as “desk fees” at real estate brokerage offices back in the 1970s.
The second is that the real meaning of the whole thing is evasive and hard even for the most seasoned real estate professional to truly understand, let alone the general public, to whom brokers and sales reps will be stuck with explaining everything. The people who are making this ruling do not seem to get the importance of the issues to the common real estate salesperson or broker. The people who are going to make the rules for real estate sales are not even close to understanding the real estate business.
The third item and most dear to my heart is the fact that the only media, newsletter, magazine or website that is covering this issue at every hearing is REM. No other blog, information wannabe or mainstream media outlet has consistently sent a reporter to these hearings as REM has.
This case is a mess. It comes down to government intervention in a business that for all intents and purposes was running as well as any other industry before somehow, somebody talked some government representatives into getting involved in a business they knew nothing about and still know nothing about. I am reminded that the last time there was a significant change in the practice of selling real estate it was the aforementioned “desk fees” but that sea change was handled and embraced internally by the real estate community. There was no government intervention like this mess.
One thing that stands out to me here in the fall of 2015 is how the various government outfits have odd and opposite positions these days. I just finished reading that the Ontario privacy commissioner has ruled that the Liquor Control Board of Ontario must stop collecting and using private information about its store broker clients and stop making that information available to whoever wants it. And here we have the Competition Bureau demanding that TREB and CREA collect and give out private information about the clients of its real estate broker offices to whoever wants it. Come on, which is it?
Make no mistake about this whole mess, the issue is about privacy. The private information of homeowners related to the most important thing that is in their possession, their home.
Even if a homeowner wants to sell their property, some information is private and should be treated with the dignity of privacy it deserves, the way TREB and CREA treat it now. That dignity should be upheld by our government more than anyone. How could they possibly think it is their job to ride roughshod over the dignity of its citizens’ privacy?
As reported in REM, lawyers representing TREB used the following quote from President Barack Obama from 2012:
“One thing should be clear, even though we live in a world in which we share personal information more freely than in the past, we must reject the conclusion, that privacy is an outmoded value. It has been at the heart of our democracy from its inception and we need it now more than ever.” How appropriate.
In the words used commonly by a Canadian celebrity: Make it right!