Toronto Real Estate Board argues online sales data compromises homeowners' privacy

The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) is appealing a decision that allows its members to post more home sales data online for all to see.

TREB files appeal of Canada's Competition Tribunal ruling

The Toronto Real Estate Board is appealing a ruling from Canada's Competition Tribunal that would allow its members to share real estate data like sale prices, broker commissions and withdrawn listings online. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) is appealing a decision that allows its members to post more home sales data online for all to see.

The board, which has some 45,000 active realtors, is arguing that the April ruling handed down by Canada's Competition Tribunal doesn't respect the rights of Greater Toronto Area consumers and may compromise their privacy due to the personal financial information that would be divulged.

If the ruling stands, TREB said in a news release, GTA homeowners would have less privacy protection than other Canadians.

TREB's CEO John DiMichele said the ruling "opens the door to misuse and abuse of their sensitive personal financial information."

"The consumer should be the one to determine, with clear understanding, when and where their personal financial information is disclosed," he added in his statement.

The Competition Bureau of Canada welcomed the April ruling after pushing for changes for years. It argued TREB limits competition, and subsequently keeps costs high, by restricting access to data on its proprietary Multiple Listing Service, on which more than 90 per cent of all Canadian home sales get processed.

In June, the tribunal ordered TREB to allow its members to offer searchable online databases, called "virtual office websites." Those databases allow access to important data like sales prices, broker commissions, withdrawn listings and archived data.

Ruling may violate laws, TREB warns

Some Toronto real estate agents support the idea, and are already planning on expanding their websites to share more information, something that may save hassle for buyers and agents alike

But the TREB said it believes sharing this information without customers' consent violates Canada's Digital Privacy Act and possibly the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act. "To ignore any of these laws is wrong," TREB said in its statement. 

The organization also rebuffed the idea that is "lessened competition" in the real estate market, noting it does not compete in the market but instead has rules so its members can compete with one another. 

TREB said it filed its appeal with the Federal Court on Friday.

The board has applied for a stay that would postpone the Aug. 3 deadline for complying with the tribunal's order until the appeal is resolved.


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