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Real estate lawyer seeks standing at CREA hearing Add to ...

The Canadian Real Estate Association may face another opponent at the Competition Tribunal, after real estate lawyer Lawrence Dale filed for intervenor status in the case late Thursday afternoon.

The application, which requests that he be allowed to speak at a hearing into alleged anti-competitive behaviour at the real estate association, says that after starting a discount service on the association's Multiple Listing Service in 2000 he "faced concerted efforts by CREA and its members to drive us out of business."

The service, called RealtySellers, allowed home sellers to list on the MLS for a fee, without the aid of a real estate agent beyond the initial listing. While CREA changed its rules last week to make this possible, up until then its rules forced anyone using the MLS to employ an agent through the whole process.

Mr. Dale says he thought he was operating within the agency's rules, but the rules were changed in 2006 and he was denied access to the system. This effectively put him out of business, he said.

"Without access to the MLS system it is not possible to effectively conduct a resale residential real estate brokerage business or provide real estate services," his affidavit reads.

"The restrictions on access and use of the MLS system imposed by CREA intended to and did restrict or prevent competition from innovative and non-traditional brokerages and agents such as Realtysellers and others wishing to offer varying bundles of services including in a fee-for-service model."

While Competition commissioner Melanie Aitken will argue that the association keeps agents from offering innovative services, he said he's best suited to make the argument because his business was shut down.

"The commissioner has a broader public-interest mandate to serve, whereas I have a unique and distinct perspective," he said.

The Competition Tribunal will hear the case in the fall, unless both sides reach an agreement sooner. The tribunal can force changes to CREA's rules, and impose a fine of up to $10-million. CREA could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but has previously said it will not comment on the case until the hearing.

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