TREB Ruling and Implications for the Canadian Market

by Yvonne von Jena | September 12, 2018

The Ruling

In late August, the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) lost its appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada concluding seven years of litigation with the Competition Bureau. In deciding not to hear TREB's appeal of a lower court ruling, the Supreme Court in effect sided with the Competition Bureau’s request that TREB release data about houses that it had kept off of listings, including sold prices. The ruling is expected to have nationwide ramifications given the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case and that the Competition Bureau is federal.

The Dispute

The dispute arose from TREB preventing its members from displaying information, such as previous listing and selling prices, on virtual offices websites (VOW), including behind a registration / password protected process. The Competition Bureau saw this practice as a way to prevent competition, while TREB defended its rules based on privacy concerns.

Implications and Application of the Ruling

There is a 60-day implementation period now underway. TREB has been reviewing its policies regarding the use and disclosure of related information, how it will allow real estate agents or brokers to communicate more data to their customers via VOWs, and other requirements and interpretations of the ruling.

After the ruling, TREB sent its members a legal warning to stop posting online details such as a listing’s selling price / sold prices, unless that information was behind a registration wall that required a password. TREB has stated that consumers can only access data through:

  • A password-protected VOW
  • Operated by a TREB member
  • For informational purposes
  • In the context of residential real estate transactions

Realtors, brokers, franchisors and other players are awaiting to hear from TREB on its implementation of the ruling. Carolyn Cheng, chief operating officer of Royal LePage (sister company of RPS), has stated that, "Details of the implementation are not yet available. Our goal will be to leverage the data as soon as more is known.” The company has also said that the data will allow the company to create a meaningful and engaging experience for consumers to support them in their home buying or selling process.

Over the course of the next 90 days, many expect to see further challenges to TREB’s interpretation of the ruling, including perhaps efforts to further open access beyond TREB members.