Since TREB announced its appeal of the Competition Tribunal’s decision, we’ve become aware of much confusion and misunderstanding of our position; I’d like to set the record straight.
I cannot emphasize enough that TREB has never opposed innovation in the real estate marketplace, nor the distribution of property data, particularly the sold price. However, decisions by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, as well as several privacy laws, including the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Document Act (PIPEDA) and the Digital Privacy Act, obligate TREB and its Members to obtain explicit and informed consent on how to distribute consumers’ personal, financial information. We have always said that we will respect the wishes of consumers. A consumer, such as yourself, has a right to privacy that only you may waive.
Without obtaining explicit, informed consumer consent, TREB cannot distribute personal financial information. TREB takes its duty to abide by our country’s privacy laws seriously. TREB will abide by requirements to keep the personal financial information of consumers, such as the sold price of their home, confidential unless instructed otherwise by consumers.
The issue at hand centres on the rights of consumers and the protection of consumer privacy in accordance with the law.
The Digital Privacy Act requires TREB and its Members to explain the “nature, purpose and consequence” to consumers when requesting their consent. This is particularly so when a new use of that personal and private information is contemplated. This is the responsible approach. This is what TREB is requesting.
Once your personal financial information is made available on the Internet, it’s available for anyone to misuse, or misappropriate, and it cannot be taken back regardless of what others are suggesting.
According to a 2012 Angus Reid poll, consumers are concerned about the consequences of the Competition Bureau’s actions. Seventy-five per cent of respondents want their final sale price to remain confidential, and seventy-five per cent believe their personal information should be kept confidential by REALTOR® professionals.
Concerns regarding the potential adverse effects on competition in the marketplace or on innovation are also unfounded. As a Member-based organization, it is TREB’s role to provide tools and resources to our Members. TREB does not get involved in how our Members choose to compete in the real estate market. One only has to look at the real estate landscape in the GTA to see that there is a tremendous amount of competition in the marketplace, among TREB’s 45,000 GTA REALTOR® Members.
For more than 95 years, GTA consumers have entrusted TREB Members as the custodians of their personal financial information and they take that responsibility very seriously. TREB believes that broad dissemination of consumers’ personal financial information was not a contemplated use when many consumers made their disclosure of this information to a real estate professional for the purpose of selling their homes. It is our view that the release of personal financial information without their explicit consent will infringe on consumer privacy rights.
TREB is appealing the decision of the Competition Tribunal.
CEO, Toronto Real Estate Board