May 18, 2012 -- Recently there has been coverage in the media regarding the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) and its fight to protect consumers in the dispute with the Canadian Competition Bureau. However, there are a few points that continue to cause confusion, and should be clarified. While some material on MLS® is publicly available through REALTOR.ca, TREB safeguards personal information as guided by privacy legislation. Abandoning these privacy safeguards of MLS® threatens the privacy of GTA consumers.
To better understand how Ontarians feel about the Competition Bureau’s actions to force TREB to abandon the safeguards in the MLS® System, TREB commissioned an Angus Reid poll.
The results of this poll could not be clearer. As part of the poll, TREB asked the question “Do you feel that, as much as possible, personal information (such as your name or the final sale price of your home) disclosed during the buying or selling of a home should be kept confidential by your REALTOR®?”
75% of Ontarians answered yes. Only 25% answered no. The overwhelming majority of Ontarians want their personal information kept confidential.
This sensitive private information includes a seller’s name (coupled with their address), negotiated sale price, sensitive property access information, financial information (including mortgage details), and property floor plans. If the Competition Bureau is successful, this information could become publicly available on the Internet, easily accessible by anyone.
The Competition Bureau is taking actions that would force TREB to abandon privacy safeguards for the entire MLS® System. This would create a “one stop shop” for abuses of private information. Consumers have not consented to this, and it would violate privacy laws.
Indeed this is the age of the Internet which is why TREB took steps to provide REALTOR® clients with much richer information but in a safe and responsible way. This is called a Virtual Office Website (VOW). TREB believes this policy meets the consumers’ need for more information.
A VOW service allows REALTORS® to offer consumers much richer information than that seen on REALTOR.ca. This password-protected website displays MLS® listing data while providing consumers with the benefit of a REALTOR® Member's knowledge and accountability, and without compromising MLS® accuracy or consumers’ privacy rights.
Ontarians want their personal information kept confidential. REALTORS® subscribe to a Code of Ethics and have an obligation to protect consumers’ personal information.
This is a complex issue. That’s why TREB launched the website ProtectYourPrivacy.ca—to build awareness of the consequences of the Canadian Competition Bureau’s actions to dismantle the privacy safeguards of the MLS® System. REALTORS® have access to personal and sensitive information and an obligation to protect it.