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Licensing and business models

If you want to operate a taxi in a big city, you have to have a license issued by the government. I am therefore confused that there are people without taxi licenses who give people rides for money, just like a taxi, and they can do so legally. I am told they can do that because, technically, they are not a taxi service but rather they are a ride-sharing system operated on the Internet. I am advised they are a different “business model”.

I know that to consult people on their medical well-being you must have a license to be a doctor. So I am confused that there are “medical consultants” who are allowed to operate without a license and tell people about what vitamins to take as well as consult on a variety of health-related issues from having children to what foods a person should eat. I am told they are a different “service”, not the same business model as doctors.

If you wish to advise people on legal matters, you have to have a license to be a lawyer. So I can’t figure out how so many people advise others on their legal rights in matters from immigration to labour relations to taxes and yet they are not licensed lawyers. Again I am told these people are in a different business model from lawyers.

I have spent over 35 years now watching the real estate industry. I always understood that if you want to act as a real estate agent for people who want to buy or sell property, you have to have a real estate license issued by the provincial government. I have watched the people in this business struggle with interpreting the laws that govern real estate licensing and I have seen these laws stretched and pulled in many different directions. I have seen a lot of non-licensed consultants in this business and I see them now. Many claim they are not the same “business model”.

I have seen all manner of different “business models” rolled out under the guise of credible real estate services that just don’t seem right to me but I cannot deny that they have been ruled legal in courts of law and wise legal opinion. I am embarrassed that after all these years of thinking I knew this business that I find myself lost in a sea of confusion of what is right and wrong. I have to ask myself this question: Why would anyone go to the trouble of getting a real estate license to charge people a negotiated fee or commission to help them buy or sell a house when it may not be necessary to have a license to do that?

I am adding this to the question that I have been asking for almost 20 years now. How come, in each job where people must have licenses, they have a fee structure approved by either the provincial or municipal governments who issue the licenses? In all cases the fees can be negotiated but there is a fee structure that all parties refer to when circumstances call for negotiations. That is, a base fee, often from a printed government book that outlines fees. Fees that can be adjusted when negotiated. That is the case with teachers, lawyers, doctors, dentists and yes, cab drivers.

I knew from the time I was 15-years-old that in Toronto, the base structure to pay a real estate agent was five per cent to sell your house if it was an exclusive listing and it was six per cent if the agent got the whole real estate community involved in selling the place by putting it on MLS. I agree that commission rates should be changed to reflect the difference of values from region to region but you need to at least have some guideline of a price for service to start from. What we have instead seems like the Wild West to me.

I know that, truth be told, out of all the people reading this, it is likely that both of you may not even have been born back when I was 15. I admit back in those days there were flim-flam artists and cheaters but nothing like we have today. Not even close. There was a lot more integrity in business back then.

That was our business model.