The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) tried its best to beat back the charge by the Competition Bureau that CREA’s rules that limit the choice of consumers as “anti-competitive”. The Association voted to change the rules requiring agents to represent sellers for the entire duration the property is listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). CREA says the change will address the Competition Bureau’s concerns and provide consumers with the choice of listing a home on the MLS for a flat-fee and handling the rest of the home selling process on her own.
While that sounds like the Competition Bureau has prevailed in its attempt to inject competition, CREA’s proposal is reported to include an escape clause that would allow local real estate boards to enforce their own set of rules. The Competition Bureau lost no time in firing back that the amendments do not go far enough:
“There is nothing in these proposals that we haven’t seen before and they do not solve the problem,” said Melanie Aitken, Commissioner of Competition, “They are a step in the wrong direction. These amendments amount to a blank cheque allowing CREA and its members to create rules that could have even greater anti-competitive consequences.”
The Competition Bureau will now take its case to the Competition Tribunal but CREA can be expected to put up a good fight. It will be a fascinating battle to watch but you do get the feeling that CREA is fighting a losing battle. It is naive to expect that the real estate market will remain immune from the competitive forces that have brought in discount pricing in so many other industries.