Competition Bureau to investigate Quebec real estate services market

The Competition Bureau will be investigating conduct by the Quebec Professional Association for Real Estate Brokers (QPAREB) and its subsidiary, Société Centris, regarding real estate data sharing restrictions.

The Association, a non-profit organization with more than 14,000 real estate brokers and agencies, manages the multiple listing service (MLS) that collects Quebec real estate transaction data, which Quebec real estate brokers use as part of their brokerage services.

“We are cooperating fully with the Competition Bureau in answering its questions,” said Marc Lacasse, President of the QPAREB Board of Directors. “Respect for the rule of law is paramount and we believe that our practices comply with applicable regulations.”

The Competition Bureau was granted an order by the Federal Court of Canada in mid-February to investigate whether the Association engaged in certain practices that harm competition in the real estate brokerage services market or that prevent the development of innovative online brokerage services in Quebec. The Federal Court order compels the Association to produce records and written information that are relevant to the Bureau’s investigation.

“The Bureau requires more information to examine the overall effects of these practices, as well as to understand the reason for the restrictions,” said the watchdog in a press release.

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In a case that wound up before the Supreme Court of Canada, the Competition Bureau took similar action against the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) in 2011. In April 2016, the Competition Tribunal ruled that TREB had abused its dominant position, and controlled the market for MLS-based residential real estate services due to its control over the MLS. In June 2016, the Tribunal ordered TREB to stop its practice of anti-competitive acts. In August 2018, the SCC dismissed TREB’s application for leave to appeal.

“This decision – a win for competition, innovation and consumers in Canada’s largest real estate market – concludes seven years of litigation against TREB. It paves the way for greater competition by enabling greater access to new and innovative real estate services, more in-depth listing information and innovative online analytical tools,” said the Competition Bureau after its legal victory before the SCC.

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