Canadian regulators' lawsuit seeks real estate VOWs

Toronto Real Estate Board says it's moving to implement rule change

Canadian regulators have sued the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), saying it’s denying agents the ability to share in-depth listing information with consumers through password-protected Virtual Office Websites, or VOWs.

TREB — which with 31,000 members is the largest real estate board in North America — says it’s working to implement rules governing VOWs by the end of August, and that the suit by Canada’s Competition Bureau amounts to little more than political grandstanding.

Technology-based U.S. brokerages like ZipRealty and Redfin employ VOWs to provide consumers with access to deeper listings data, rivaling what brokers and agents see when they log in to their multiple listing service (MLS).

VOW sites let consumers see previous listing and sale prices, historical prices for comparable properties in the area, and the amount of time a property has been on the market, for example.

While agents who belong to TREB can provide detailed MLS listings information to customers by hand, mail, fax or email, "there are currently no VOWs operating in the Toronto real estate market that enable customers to search a full inventory of listings," the Competition Bureau said in announcing the suit.