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Better Business Bureau Exposed as a Scam

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Just The Truth of Perkasie, PA on Dec 5, 2010


Grading the Better Business Bureau
12/4/10 by Paul Muschick - The Morning Call
page 1

The BBB, which helps consumers make wise purchases, came under fire for its grading system.

One of the themes I repeatedly drive home through this Watchdog column is to do your homework so you make informed decisions and spend your money with reputable businesses that won't pull one over on you.

I frequently suggest you check a company's rating with the Better Business Bureau as one way of protecting yourself. I hope I haven't been steering you wrong.

The BBB itself recently came under fire, with allegations that it plays favorites in its grading system by improving the scores of businesses that become paid members.

An ABC News investigation that aired on "20/20" last month found the BBB had given top grades to fictional companies after people created them to test the system and paid $425 to enroll the fake companies as accredited BBB members.

The Nov. 12 report, which you can view at http://abcnews.go.com/2020 , said two small businesses in Los Angeles were told by the BBB they could raise their grades from the C range to an A+ if they paid $395 in membership fees.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal started investigating the BBB's grading system last year, questioning whether it gives dues-paying members an advantage.

"BBB ratings should be based exclusively on performance, honesty and responsiveness," Blumenthal said in a statement in September. "Any suggestion or appearance of 'pay-to-play' threatens to undermine the accuracy and credibility of the BBB's ratings, potentially misleading consumers and unfairly tainting non-member businesses."

In a Nov. 10 letter, Blumenthal called for the BBB to stop awarding its paid members additional points that are unavailable to non-members.

"At a minimum, the BBB must disclose to consumers that its ratings system is influenced by fees," he wrote.

Within about a week of Blumenthal's letter and the ABC News report, the BBB announced it would stop awarding bonus points to member businesses.

"For nearly 100 years, the BBB has stood for public trust, and we are taking these steps to maintain that trust," Steve Cox, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, said in a statement Nov. 18. "Given the feedback, we feel it is our duty to take immediate steps to address the concerns raised, and enhance our ability to help consumers easily and quickly find trustworthy businesses."

Just The Truth of Perkasie, PA on Dec 5, 2010


Grading the Better Business Bureau
Page 2

The BBB has set up a process on its website for businesses to raise concerns about its sales practices. It pledged to "conduct a review of its process for accrediting businesses" and hire an independent third party to assist in that review.

It will continue to develop letter grades for businesses by awarding points based on 16 factors, including how long the company has been in business, the type of business, complaint volume, unanswered and unresolved complaints, government action and advertising review.

Member businesses previously had been awarded four points in that formula and were required to follow the BBB's "Standards for Trust."

You can find those standards and a detailed explanation of the grading system on my blog at http://blogs.mcall.com/watchdog/ .

Blumenthal said he was pleased with the decision to alter the grading formula, but said he remains "troubled" by the rating system because the BBB doesn't have the ability to adequately investigate businesses.

"The BBB lacks the resources to verify much information used to rate, rendering its ratings unreliable and suspect," he said in a statement. "The BBB cannot rely on the word of businesses about licenses, state laws or other information; objective and independent confirmation is vital to accurate ratings."

He said the BBB should disclose the limitations of its system.

I've wondered about BBB grades since last year when I wrote about Rodale, the Emmaus publishing company, being under investigation in Florida for its sales practices. I started looking into Rodale's performance and discovered it had an F grade from the BBB.

I asked Rodale about its grade and the publisher contacted the BBB and challenged some of its ratings information. By the next day, Rodale's grade was a B+.

Does this mean the BBB system is useless to people looking for information on which businesses they should trust with their money?

No. I've written about plenty of businesses that have shafted customers, and many of them have had appropriately poor grades from the BBB.

What this situation suggests, as I've advised many times, is that a BBB rating is only one factor you should consider. Look for online reviews about a company. Ask friends and family for suggestions on businesses they've found to be reliable. When practical, get references and check them out.

Smiley To Mr C of Sunbury, PA on Dec 5, 2010

Yea, I for one believe they are a big joke.

I filed a complaint with them against a store that sold me a malfunctioning gas log, that could have resulted in me being injured.

They sided with the store, even though I had plenty of phsyical proof to substantiate my complaint, such as logs that came with the set were not the ones for that particular set, and their failure to service the product within the time frame of the warranty!

I finally got some assistance from the manufacturer who told me they keep a list of complaints filed by consumers on file. At least this company was acting responsible in making an attempt to weed out the "bad".

USA Ttoday of Fort Saskatchewan, Canada on Jan 24, 2015

The BBB is a dying organization that is drawing in its last breath. The BBB needs to die........its time has past.

Mama Flapjack and Kids of Quakertown, PA on Feb 1, 2015

Wow it took a article to tell you this . Dumb as they come on here ,It has always been a money scam . The more you pay the better your rating ,Mama should not have to tell you that.