Toronto board moving to allow VOWs

Canadian regulators filed suit in May

North America’s largest real estate board — the 31,000-member Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) — has published a proposed policy that would allow members to provide detailed listing data over the Internet via password-protected Virtual Office Websites, or VOWs.

TREB members will have 60 days to provide input and feedback on the proposed VOW policy, which board officials say has been in development since July 2010.

Canadian regulators sued TREB last month, saying that while real estate boards and associations in other jurisdictions, including Nova Scotia, allow members to provide VOW services, the Toronto board has "cultivated a reputation for shutting down any broker who develops an innovative service," including VOWs.

TREB officials said they had begun working on a VOW policy before the lawsuit was filed, and accused Canada’s Competition Bureau of political grandstanding. At the time the lawsuit was filed, TREB’s board of directors had signed off on the VOW concept, and a committee was drafting proposed rules.