Every REALTOR® knows that the real estate industry is highly competitive. Clients might choose a REALTOR® based on a number of different criteria, such as level of services offered, reputation and quality of service, and commission rates to name a few. The smart REALTOR® always keeps a close eye on what their competition is doing in order to stay ahead. And we know that others also keep a close watch, including the Competition Bureau and its leader, the Commissioner of Competition, who have had a not-so-secret crush on the real estate industry since at least 1988.
Does the real estate industry get special attention from the Competition Bureau? We have to keep in mind two things. First, real estate has a high profile in terms of consumer protection because a home is the biggest purchase that most Canadian consumers will ever make in their lifetimes. Second, the Bureau views trade associations as potential vehicles for anti-competitive activity simply because trade associations bring competitors together. We have also seen a string of enforcement actions by the Commissioner including the Competition Tribunal’s recent decision (April 15, 2013) in favour of TREB regarding TREB’s Virtual Office Website (VOWs) policy, which the Commissioner has decided to appeal. What does it all mean? REALTORS® need to keep up on the “Do’s and Don’ts” of competition law compliance and that’s where CREA and your Board or Association come in.
CREA does a number of things to help keep Boards, Associations, and REALTORS® on the right side of the Competition Act. CREA ensures that a competition lawyer (that’s me) is available for Boards and Associations to consult when they have a competition law question. For REALTORS®, CREA created a competition compliance program to keep REALTORS® up to date on which business practices are fine and, more importantly, which ones could result in a knock on the door from the Competition Bureau. Since the consequences are no joke (fines and imprisonment are possible), CREA’s aim is to provide REALTORS® with helpful and easy-to-understand materials. I am pleased to announce the first of four short new videos from CREA to help guide your way to safe business practices that comply with the Competition Act.
As you can see, “Collusion and Conspiracy” is already posted on REALTOR Link®. Keep on the lookout for the next three which will be posted soon: “Misleading Advertising,” “Setting Your Prices,” and “Doing Business with Competitors.” Stay tuned for more competition developments!
The article above is for information purposes and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.