February 10, 2010
Dale Ripplinger, president of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), thought he was close to a deal as he walked out of a Toronto boardroom last week following a meeting with federal Competition Bureau officials.
After five months of negotiations, the goal was to settle concerns that the CREA was engaged in anti-competitive practices by tightly controlling the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database, through which the majority of Canadian home sales are performed. By the time Mr. Ripplinger and the CREA's legal team had met last week with the competition commissioner Melanie Aitken, the CREA had agreed to a number of concessions. One change would have allowed homeowners to list on MLS, but handle offers without the help of an agent. But the language of CREA's proposal contained wiggle room that allowed local real estate boards to retain the power to enforce their own rules.
The Competition Bureau's tactics have put trade associations and companies on notice that while it has long been criticized for being too soft, it is taking a tougher stance on alleged anti-competitive conduct.
"They are taking an aggressive enforcement approach," says Omar Wakil. "This shows they're prepared to take a hard line when it's appropriate."
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