The Federal Court of Appeal has upheld a lower court decision ordering the largest real estate group in the country to make detailed financial information about home sales more open to the public.
In a ruling announced Friday, the court upheld a previous decision in favour of the Competition Bureau in its case against the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB).
The competition watchdog said the group's practice of keeping information about home sale prices and real estate agent commissions secret is anti-competitive and bad for consumers. TREB, for its part, cites privacy concerns for why it should be the gatekeeper for such information.
A lower court found in the bureau's favour, but TREB appealed.
- Online sales data would harm owners' privacy, TREB argues
- Real estate pros fear court could break lock on secret sales data
The ruling could open the door to businesses and websites offering much more detailed information about home sales to the public, without having to sign a contract to work with an agent on commission.
The Competition Bureau said it welcomed the court's ruling.
"Today's decision is an important win for competition and for consumers — it paves the way for much needed innovation in the real estate industry," said Commissioner of Competition John Pecman in a release.
"Anti-competitive activity that hinders innovation in the Canadian economy will continue to be a top priority for the Bureau," Pecamn said.
The decision does not bring an end to the dispute that dates back years, however. TREB now has 60 days to seek leave to appeal its case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In a statement to CBC News, TREB says that's exactly what it plans to do.
"TREB disagrees with the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal and will be seeking leave to appeal the decision," CEO John DiMichele said. "TREB believes strongly that personal financial information of home buyers and sellers must continue to be safely used and disclosed."
Some brokers welcome decision
Toronto real estate agent and president of Realosophy John Pasalis said he would welcome more openness and transparency when it comes to the amount of market data the public has readily available to them.
"There's nothing to fear from this for a good realtor but there's a lot for bad realtors to fear," he said in an interview. Pasalis' firm has been pushing to make sales information available free of charge on his website for a while, as it is in other jurisdictions.
He said not only would it make for better-informed consumers, it would also allow him to do more, "detailed research for our customers."
"If your only advantage is giving [data on recent home sales] you're going to have a hard time competing tomorrow," Pasalis said. "It's going to raise the bar in our industry."
"I think the biggest benefactors of this truly are users, so people that are in the research stage of buying and selling property who are looking to make informed planning decisions," Lauren Haw, CEO of Zoocasa, a real estate firm, told The Canadian Press.