New twist in competition watchdog’s battle with realtors — #realestate #Toronto #Ottawa #real_estate #business #money #finance #news

New twist in competition watchdog’s battle with realtors

Garry Marr, Financial Post  Published: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Competition Bureau wants to block a network of independent private home sellers from participating in a hearing at the Competition Tribunal. The hearing is to determine if the real estate industry’s practices are anti-competitive.

It’s the latest twist in the battle between the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and the government watchdog. CREA’s 98,000 agents, from more than 100 real estate boards across country, usually compete with private sellers for home listings.

But in this instance, CREA is arguing its competitors should be heard. And the Commissioner of Competition Melanie Aitken is arguing there should be no standing for the competitor at the hearing.

Ottawa-based National FSBO Network Inc. has filed an application to intervene at the hearing. “There is no suggestion that NFN offers residential real estate brokerage services or that it is a member of CREA. There is likewise no suggestion that NFN’s business is directly affected,” Ms. Aitken says in a court filing.

She filed an application with the Competition Tribunal in February objecting to restrictions placed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which is owned by CREA and estimated by the bureau to account for 90% of home sales in the country. The bureau wants the MLS permanently changed so realtors can offer consumers a range of services, including a listing only. The bureau maintains the current rules stop real estate agents from selling their services a la carte and force consumers to pay for an entire suite of broker services.

Stephen Skelly, vice-president of operations with National FSBO, is objecting to Ms. Aitken’s proposed changes because he says that if agents list property on the MLS for a one-time fee and provide no additional service, his private seller members would not be able to compete.

Mr. Skelly is trying to link various for-sale-by-owner networks across the country and has six signed up, including Grape Vine Home Marketing Consultants in Ottawa, one of the largest in eastern Ontario. He estimates private sellers control as much as 30% of transactions in some jurisdictions.

“There is serious concern in the FSBO community that if the commissioner’s application is successful, it would be very difficult for FSBO businesses to compete with agents who would have full use of the MLS and ‘related trademarks’ and who would have all of the advertising and marketing recourses of CREA and its members,” he said in his application for hearing to the Tribunal.

“This could ultimately lead to the demise of FSBO businesses and the cost-effective services they provide, and effectively [create] a monopoly situation.”

Rival CREA says it doesn’t have a problem with Mr. Skelly being heard and agrees his standing at the hearing could provide a better overall picture of the marketplace.

“NFN likely has information that is relevant to the disputed issues in this proceeding,” CREA said in response to Mr. Skelly’s application.

The tribunal also has an application to intervene from Lawrence Dale, the lawyer who started discount broker Realtysellers Ltd. Mr. Dale is suing the CREA and the Toronto Real Estate Board. CREA has opposed his application for status.

No date has been set for the tribunal hearing.

gmarr@nationalpost.com

Posted via web from Toronto Real Estate News, Blog

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One Response to New twist in competition watchdog’s battle with realtors — #realestate #Toronto #Ottawa #real_estate #business #money #finance #news

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