Canadian regulators appeal dismissal of case against Toronto Real Estate Board

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Canadian regulators have appealed last month’s dismissal of a complaint alleging anti-competitive practices by the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB). The Competition Bureau of Canada initiated an administrative proceeding against TREB in May 2011 alleging the board had restricted competition by not allowing members to operate virtual office websites (VOWs). Although TREB adopted rules allowing members to operate VOWs, the Competition Bureau continued to press its case, saying the rules were too restrictive.

TREB members also supply listings to Realtor.ca, a national listings portal operated by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). CREA was granted limited standing to participate in the proceeding after voicing concerns that the Competition Bureau’s dispute with TREB could have broader implications for the Internet distribution of property listings data throughout Canada.

In dismissing the Competition Bureau’s complaint last month, Canada’s Competition Tribunal said TREB, as an incorporated trade association, does not compete with its own members in the real estate brokerage market and therefore cannot be found to have violated an “abuse of dominance” provision in Canadian law.

In announcing that it had filed an appeal today with the Federal Court of Appeal, the Competition Bureau said the Tribunal’s ruling “was based on an overly narrow interpretation” of the “abuse of dominance” provision. Source: competitionbureau.gc.ca.