Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Competition bureau charges 'misconceived:' CREA Add to ...

The Canadian Real Estate Association says allegations levelled at it by the federal Competition Bureau are "fundamentally misconceived."

The association's rebuttal came in its official defence to accusations that CREA rules squelch competition at the expense of consumers.

CREA denies consumers must purchase a bundle of services from Realtors in order to sell their house using the popular Multiple Listing Service.

It also says the bureau's allegations have mischaracterized the very competitive environment confronting real estate agents.

Cat:e528746c-3414-401a-b14b-50247e3bdf01Forum:2d13dc33-9921-4d4a-815f-e809277631e4

CREA says Realtors already offer a wide range of business models, including discounted services, flat-fee arrangements and fee-for-service arrangements.

The Competition Bureau rejected amendments made by CREA on Monday to clarify its rules, saying the changes don't guarantee more choice for consumers.

The case will be decided by a Competition Tribunal, which released CREA's response to the allegations on its website Friday.

The Competition Bureau received a letter from CREA's new president, Georges Pahud, on Thursday indicating the association was willing to meet with the watchdog, but also said that it would welcome the opportunity to deal with the case before the Competition Tribunal.

The bureau says it has always been open to negotiations with CREA, but adds there could be little progress unless CREA presents a new proposal to amend a clause it feels gives the association "a blank cheque" to impose new anti-competitive rules.

In CREA's response, it called the allegation "preposterous."

"CREA has and has always had the ability to make rules, as do its member boards. CREA and member boards are obliged to, intend to, do and will comply with competition law," it said.

"Remedies exist if, in future, it is determined that some new rule breaches competition law."

The bureau takes issue with a clause in the amendments that says the changes are subject to the rules of local real estate boards. It wants CREA to ensure its members cannot pass rules that restrict consumer choice.

The watchdog said without a new proposal that addresses the bureau's remaining concerns, a decision from the tribunal is necessary to achieve a lasting solution.

But CREA argues there is no principled basis for the application to proceed.

"The amendments to the MLS rules clarify the way the rules actually operated, and make it absolutely clear that the nature of services to be provided by a Realtor are a matter of agreement between a Realtor and his or her client."

CREA says its members have flat-fee arrangements that cost as little as $109 or less.

CREA adds its MLS rules "do not substantially lessen or prevent competition in any relevant market."

It says it has not undertaken an "abuse of dominance," which would violate competition laws because it does not have "control of a market" as trade association with members who compete vigorously for clients.

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobeBusiness

 

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories