Ruling Allows Public Access To Real Estate Data. Board Appeals.

It's a dispute that has dragged on for years between the Competition Bureau of Canada and the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB). But, in April, Canada's Competition Tribunal ruled that TREB must allow its members to provide public, online access to sensitive sales data.

As the August 3 compliance deadline looms, TREB - Canada's largest real estate board - has filed an appeal. Meanwhile, industry watchers wait to see both the result and its potential to change the face of estate sales across the country.

Promoting Fair Competition Or Infringing On Sellers' Privacy?

Under current rules, real estate agents can reveal certain confidential sales information, but only to personal clients. If the new ruling stands, agents would be allowed to offer searchable online databases containing previously shrouded information - actual sale prices, withdrawn sales, broker commissions, and a host of other data that could be used to help buyers predict prices and make more informed buying decisions.

The Competition Bureau contends that preventing public access to such data stifles fair competition and keeps costs high.

The ruling nonetheless provides some limits on the type of data that could be exposed and would allow home sellers to make individual requests to have their information excluded. But, according to TREB CEO, John DiMichele, the ruling "opens the door to misuse and abuse of...sensitive personal financial information."

Whether the new ruling opens the door to increased public information or, as TREB contends, violates Canada's Digital Privacy Act remains to be seen.

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