Federal Courts Rule in Favour of Anti Trust Legislators
Back in 2017, the Federal Court of Appeal has upheld an April, 2016 decision made by Canada’s Competition Tribunal. It ordered the Toronto Real Estate Board to allow its members to share the sales histories of listed properties online.
This ruling relates as well to the incoming opportunities of Blockchain technology in real estate. What’s at stake is the all important client and property databases.
TREB has always contended that its first priority is to protect homebuyers data and privacy. It seems the courts didn’t buy that argument. This isn’t an isolated war in Canadian markets and courts. REBGV in Vancouver is fighting to hang onto its data too.
From the ruling: “The tribunal made no error in finding that TREB engaged in an anti-competitive practice and that this practice had and will likely continue to have the effect of preventing or lessening competition substantially in the (Greater Toronto Area).”
Whether this is good news or not so good news depends on who you are. It’s certainly good news for online real estate service businesses. They can improve their services with this open data source. TREB’s 45,000 realtor members may feel this is a threat to their own businesses who benefited from stifled competition.
It will create a further evolution in professional real estate sales. Agents and brokers will have to be smarter, more effective, and create a better presence online. The new market will move from Realtor intranets to the Internet and smartphones.
TREB is appealing the ruling and hoping to stay the order that allows immediate release of the home sales information. It’s a small win for some, but eyes are on the future, where more of the TREB data can be released and reported on.
Without accurate, up to date housing data, it is very difficult for service companies to do business in Toronto Real Estate. TREB has almost monopolistic power in an era that is demanding access to market data.
In a Toronto Star Report, the governments’s commissioner of Competition, John Pecman says Friday’s ruling is an important win for competition and consumers.
“It paves the way for much needed innovation in the real estate industry,” he said in a statement about the case has been going on for six years.” – from Torstar new report.
Realtors can now post home sales data on their websites for buyers and sellers to see. The tribunal also said TREB must provide data such as sales figures, pending sales and broker commissions, which might be embarrassing situation for some.
It’s All About the Housing Data
Although the argument seems to be about the release of the actual sales price history of homes, it may actually be more about control and the rest of the data in TREB’s gargantuan database. Although TREB wants control of the data, which could mined for incredibly business value, it looks like they are losing the battle.
Perhaps TREB should go with the flow on this one and charge a fee for it? Even if the data is the property of TREB, the ruling shouldn’t prevent TREB from selling their data. If there are privacy issues regarding the data, then the Federal Government may be held liable for releasing it. Homeowners themselves were likely lead to believe their property and personal information would be protected and private.
Sounds like a legal can of worms.
Some wonder if it’s a sad state of affairs if a Realtor’s only value proposition is as a gatekeeper to the data. That data has immense valuable to a lot of investors and home buyers. Previously, only Zillow had this type of housing sales data. The release of TREB mls data may be a nail in the coffin for Zillow.
It is likely new businesses and business models will evolve as a result of the ruling. Smaller businesses can jump on it right away to offer enhanced services online, but other large scale, Zillow, Zolo or Zoocasa enterprise level businesses will likely have to wait until the matter is fully settled in the Supreme court.
We’re in a data driven business world, and until now, the housing data was contained. Now with that dam bursting, it opens up many possibilities for entrepreneurial startups in the real estate sphere.
For real estate agents, the news is likely not a good one. Agents will now have to work much more effectively at building new real estate leads, holding onto old clients, and revamping the power of their own realtor brand image.
The release of this immense database will open up all sorts of entrepreneurial opportunities and range of services by real estate marketers of all types. The Canadian markets are opening up open market models you see in the US.
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