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Profile: What is The Better Business Bureau?

Sarah Bolton

Sarah Bolton

The Better Business Bureau (aka The BBB) is a well-known private, nonprofit organization whose stated mission is “To be the leader in advancing marketplace trust“.
It’s considered by many as one of the nation’s top consumer protection and advocacy bodies, as well as an authority on trust issues in the marketplace.

It strives to be a leading force for building and maintaining a business culture of honesty and integrity.
The agency promotes principles, norms, and values that serve their stated vision of “An ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other“.
The organization provides consumer and business education, arbitration, and reporting services.

Even though it has the word “bureau” in its official name, the BBB is not affiliated with any government agency or organization.
It was founded in 1912 and operates throughout the US and Canada via over 100 local branches.
These local chapters are coordinated under the parent body: the Council of Better Business Bureaus (the CBBB), which is located in Arlington, Virginia.

As their slogan (“Start With Trust”) implies, their goal is to advance marketplace trust by forming a large community of trustworthy businesses, developing standards for marketplace trust, promoting ethical marketplace practices, honoring decent business behavior leaders, and exposing those who adopt substandard marketplace behavior.

The agency is publishing freely available business reliability reports on millions of businesses all across North America.
This database, which can be accessed by anyone online, helps consumers to make better-informed decisions as they consider dealing with a certain commercial business or charity.

The reports help the average consumer to single out a business and check its rating.
These letter grades range from A+ to F and are assigned based on a list of grading criteria: complaint history of the business with the BBB, the type of business, time in business, background information on the business in the BBB files, failure to honor commitments to the agency, licensing and government actions known to the BBB and lastly, advertising issues known to the organization.

The final grade is supposed to answer the consumer’s fundamental question: “Can I trust this business?”
A simple search on the BBB official website can help consumers to identify reliable and trustworthy businesses and avoid those that aren’t.

The organization exposes business fraud against consumers, alerts the public of online and offline scams, provides detailed information on ethical business practices (and the lack of thereof), and monitors all other common business-to-consumer related activities in the marketplace.

Consumers are welcome to file complaints against a company, retailer, service provider, or other types of businesses they have dealt with when their relationship with them ended with an unsettled conflict.
These complaints may have a major impact on a business’s reputation, credibility, and long-term success.

Despite the fact that the Better Business Bureau is not a government or law enforcement agency, and even though it has no means to force companies to comply with the law or to take action, it still carries a major degree of influence that should not be underestimated.

If a certain business refuses to respond to a BBB inquiry, it is noted in the company’s public online review and may indicate to potential customers that they should stay away and take their business elsewhere.

Additionally, local BBB chapters provide third-party dispute resolution and arbitration services between customers and businesses.
This channel helps to resolve customer complaints efficiently in a professional manner outside the court.