Canada watchdog targets revamped realtor rules

Mon Mar 22, 2010 5:36pm EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's Competition Bureau said on Monday it will push forward with its challenge to "anti-competitive rules" imposed by the Canadian Real Estate Association.

In response to rule changes by CREA on Monday, the competition agency said the amendments were a "step in the wrong direction" and could allow CREA and its members to "create rules that could have even greater anti-competitive consequences.

CREA is an industry group that represents more than 98,000 real estate agents across the country.

"There is nothing in these proposals that we haven't seen before and they do not solve the problem," Melanie Aitken, competition commissioner, said in a statement.

The Competition Bureau said in February it would ask the Competition Tribunal to strike down rules imposed by CREA on people wanting to use the association's Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which it said requires them to use additional services they might not want. MLS is the national database that realtors use to list homes.

At the time, Aitken said that if the rules were struck down, "there will be downward pressure on real estate fees in Canada." The bureau also said that, under CREA rules, agents are not allowed to offer consumers the option of paying them to just list a home on the MLS system.

In a statement released on Monday, CREA said its membership approved changes clarifying the rules related to MLS.

"Through these proactive clarifications of the existing rules, CREA believes that the concerns raised by the Competition Bureau are fully addressed," it said in a statement.

A CREA spokeswoman declined to provide details on the changes.

(Reporting by Jennifer Kwan; editing by Peter Galloway)