"Our mission is to promote and foster the highest ethical relationship between businesses and the public through voluntary self-regulation, consumer and business education, and service excellence." What Is a Better Business Bureau? How Can It Help
A Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a private, nonprofit organization that provides services and programs to assist consumers and businesses. The focus of a Bureau's activities is to promote an ethical marketplace by encouraging honest advertising and selling practices, and alternative dispute resolution. The services and programs offered by your Better Business Bureau can help you be a more informed, knowledgeable and satisfied consumer. What Services Does a Bureau Offer Consumers?
Committed to the principles that fair business practices are good for both buyer and seller, and that the vast majority of buyers and sellers are honest and responsible, a Better Business Bureau:
- Collects and reports information to help prospective buyers make informed decisions.
- Develops programs to encourage firms to regulate their own advertising and selling practices.
- Serves as a neutral third party to help settle marketplace disputes.
The BBB helps consumers directly by:
What Information Does a Bureau Give Out About Companies?
- Providing information about a company, particularly whether or not there are unanswered or unsettled complaints, or other problems.
- Providing information about charities and other organizations that are seeking donations.
- Helping resolve a buyer/seller complaint against a company, including mediation and arbitration services in many instances.
- Disseminating accurate consumer information so wise buying decisions can be made. The BBB also helps consumers indirectly by:
- Fostering ethical advertising and selling practices.
- Monitoring advertising and selling practices, and seeking corrections and improvements where appropriate.
- Alerting consumers about fraudulent and harmful practices in the marketplace, and cooperating with appropriate law enforcement agencies.
- Providing consumer information to news media, such as radio, television, newspapers and other print media.
- Publishing and disseminating pamphlets and books on a wide variety of topics of interest to consumers and businesses, to enable them to make informed marketplace decisions.
Bureau reports on companies are based on information in the Bureau's file. Generally, a report will contain:
- Information about the length of time the company has been in business or know to the Bureau.
- A summary of the company's complaint history or other experience.
- Information developed through special Bureau investigations.
Bureaus also have the option of reporting whether the company is a Bureau member, or participates in any special Bureau programs such as alternative dispute resolution. Bureaus do not compare one company against another, do not give legal advice or make recommendations. What Is a Bureau Member?
Bureau members are companies that meet the Bureau's standards for membership, agree to support the BBB's principles of ethical business practices and voluntary self-regulation, and have accepted the Bureau's invitation to join. Bureau members provide most of the funding to support the Bureau's programs, staff and activities. It is important to know that Bureaus provide reports about, and handle complaints against, both members and non-members on an even-handed basis. In addition, a Bureau is neutral and may not be used as a reference by any company.What Is a Bureau’s Complaint-Handling Process?
A Bureau usually requests that a complaint be submitted in writing, so that an accurate record exists of the dispute. The complaint is then taken up with the company involved. Because most business firms care about satisfying their customers, complaints generally are resolved and the matter is closed.
However, even after extensive effort, some complaints cannot satisfactorily be resolved in this manner. In such cases, a Bureau may offer an alternative dispute settlement process, such as mediation or arbitration.
In some situations, a Bureau may be unable to obtain any cooperation from the company. A pattern of unanswered or unresolved complaints becomes a part of the firm's record, and is reported to inquirers who ask about the company. An unsatisfactory report may lead to termination of BBB membership. In extreme cases, the BBB may refer its file on the company to a law enforcement agency to determine if further action is warranted. What Is Alternative Dispute Resolution?
A BBB may offer the following dispute resolution options:
Conciliation: The BBB staff helps the customer and business communicate so they can resolve their dispute informally.
Mediation: A professionally trained mediator meets with the parties and guides them in working out their own mutually agreeable solutions.
Arbitration: The parties state their views at an arbitration hearing, offer evidence, and let an impartial third party from the Bureau’s pool of certified arbitrators make the decision that will end the dispute.
The BBB CARE program enables interested businesses to commit in advance to use the above BBB dispute resolution services to resolve customer complaints. A Better Business Bureau Cannot…
A Bureau assists consumers and businesses through voluntary means. It does not have police powers, cannot force a business to do what the consumer wants, does not give legal advice, and cannot help either party break a legal contract, although it will try to assist if misrepresentation or fraud was involved.
Also, a BBB does not make collections or provide credit information. It does not act as a reference, or make recommendations or endorsements. It does not appraise articles or pass judgement on the price charged for merchandise, the quality of services or workmanship, the operating efficiency of devices, or the length of time merchandise should wear or last. When Did Bureaus Get Started?
The first Bureaus began operation in 1912. Originally, they were "Vigilance Committees" of Advertising Clubs, established to correct abuses in advertising. They very quickly broadened their function to monitor other marketplace activities and business performance.
Today, there are 138 Better Business Bureaus in the U.S., with more than 14 million consumer contacts each year. Why Are There Better Business Bureaus?
Better Business Bureaus exist because their members believe most marketplace problems can be corrected through voluntary, self-regulatory programs, and because they want to assist consumers in obtaining necessary information for resolving problems. Honest advertising and selling practices mean customer satisfaction, and that’s good business. Where Does a Bureau Get Its Operating Funds?
BBBs are organized as nonprofit corporations financed almost entirely by membership dues, or subscriptions, paid by businesses and professional firms in the local community. What is the Council of Better Business Bureaus?
The Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), located in Arlington, Virginia, is the umbrella organization for the Better Business Bureaus in the U.S., which are supported by 230,000 local business members. Through the national memberships of over 350 leading edge companies and the network of member BBBs, the Council provides programs and services on behalf of the Better Business Bureau system; monitors and investigates complaints about national advertising; issues reports on national charitable organizations; and administers the BBB alternative dispute resolution programs.
The offices of the Council’s National Advertising Division (NAD) and Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) are located at 845 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022. NAD monitors and investigates complaints against national advertising. CARU monitors advertising directed to children under 12 years of age.