TREB goes to war with members over data publication

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Since 2011 TREB has fought to keep home sales data in the hands of real estate agents, arguing that posting the data would violate consumer privacy. Last month The Supreme Court of Canada confirmed it won’t hear an appeal from the Toronto Real Estate Board that would aim to keep the board’s members from publishing home sales data.

But despite the court ruling, the Toronto Real Estate Board is threatening real estate companies publishing such data with consequences, saying they are “jumping the gun” by releasing Greater Toronto Area home sales data from unknown sources before the board has permitted it.

The board sent cease-and-desist letters, warning it will take away data access and TREB memberships or bring legal action against members it believes are violating its user agreement by posting sale numbers online “in an open and unrestricted fashion.”

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The data has been a contentious issue for TREB ever since the Competition Bureau began pushing to allow realtors to post it through password protected web pages called virtual office websites seven years ago, saying it impedes competition and digital innovation.

Following last month’s ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada, TREB then said it would permit its members to publish the data after the board takes 60 days to prepare for its release and make it available to members — an allowance given to the board by the Competition Tribunal years ago when the case was studied at the quasi-judicial body.

The Competition Bureau believes the 60 days passed in between TREB’s appeals to various courts, but TREB claims the contrary.

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A spokesperson for TREB indicated that they would go ‘live’ by mid-September to comply with the order.

From all indications, it appears TREB is still debating whether to fight for adjustments to an order allowing the data’s online publication.

Meanwhile TREB has sent out letters to ‘violators’ threatening them with loss of access to data as well as membership in TREB. On top of that, they run the risk of further legal action in the courts, if they flaunt TREB’s directive to stop publishing the data.

Zoocasa meanwhile has regretted that they first posted the data without password protections due to “technical issue,” but have since rectified it.

TREB has yet to reveal how it plans to post data. -CINEWS

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