Sunday, August 21, 2011

Toronto Real Estate Board plans to move ahead with password-protected sites

The Toronto Real Estate Board says it's sticking to its plan to develop password protected websites, despite the federal Competition Bureau's opposition.

In its first response to an amended lawsuit filed by the federal agency, the Toronto Real Estate Board said Friday that its proposed new password protected websites that allow consumers to search Multiple Listing Service data while protecting the privacy of its customers.

"As planned, TREB has followed through on its commitment to provide realtor members with greater flexibility to serve their clients by developing a Virtual Office Website (VOW) policy," it said.

It added that consumers will be able to use those protected websites with the oversight of a realtor.

TREB accused the competition commissioner of pressuring the real-estate board to release private data about individual consumers, including contact and financial information, on the Internet.

Last month, the Competition Bureau updated its lawsuit, saying that password protected websites are still discriminatory and anti-competitive.

The amended case says the VOWs would still prevent agents from making key historical data available online.

The filing comes after TREB announced a new policy proposal last month in response to the Competition Bureau's first legal action taken against it in May.

The bureau had alleged consumers were being denied choice because while local agents were allowed to provide detailed information to customers in person or through fax or email, they were banned from doling out such information through websites.

But the bureau is not satisfied with the new policy, saying the proposed rules will continue to require customers to contact a realtor, entrenching the physical location model and discriminating against brokers who want to use the Internet.

The bureau alleges that TREB's restrictions are in violation of the Competition Act.

Source: The Canadian Press

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