Imagine that you have just bought a new lawnmower at the local store and have been given a money-back guarantee. A month later, the blade falls off, and you return it to the store for a refund. However, the store owner says that you must have misunderstood: they do not have such guarantees. Who should you turn to?
If you’re like 40 percent of Americans, you, like them, will turn to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB has kept an eye on the credibility of businesses and charities for over 75 years. In the past, you would have to go to one of their offices to file a complaint. Today, however, BBB services are provided entirely over the Internet. Over a million consumers from America and Canada file complaints with the BBB every year, and their complaints are attended to.
History of the BBB
In the early 20th century, there was a flurry of false advertising on various media outlets that caused a national scandal. The BBB was formed during this time, with the aim of raking in businesses involved in these scams. Advertising agencies, in an effort to clear their professional image, created vigilance groups locally, which turned out to be self-governed trade organizations, that were out to correct and expose misleading advertisements. In 1912, they merged into one national organization, which was called the National Better Business Bureau.
Today, the total number of BBBs in the United States and Canada is 128. The organization has accredited over 400,000 businesses in the U.S., and they proudly display this accreditation at their premises or on their websites.
How the BBB Handles Consumer Complaints
Looking at the above scenario, when you report store owners to the BBB, they initially decide whether your complaint has merit or not. If they find it to be frivolous, they will not pursue it with the store owner. If the owner had tried to address your complaints, and you went ahead and filed for arbitration, then they will close the complaint. However, if the complaint has merit, they will forward it to the store owner.
Since the BBB is a private agency and not state owned, they cannot compel anyone to comply with the resolution of the complaint. Most companies respond to the BBB simply to avoid being labeled as untrustworthy. A business that does not rely on the accreditation of the BBB may choose to ignore the complaint filed against it.
Complaints can be filed over the phone or in writing. However, it is better to use their online website to file your complaint. When you are filing your complaint, you will be asked for personal information and the details of the complaint. You cannot make an anonymous complaint to the BBB.
The BBB will send your complaint to the stated business within five working days. Each of the BBBs has its own structure and reporting time. The business will have a stated amount of time within which to respond to your complaints. Once they get the response, they will notify you about what the business has proposed. If you are not satisfied with the response, you have 10 days to rebut. If you do not, the BBB closes the case. If the process becomes complex, then the BBB offers dispute resolution for a fee. This includes mediation and third-party arbitration.
Additional BBB Information
The automotive industry enjoys a specialized section called the BBB Auto Line. This was set up to handle warranties and lemon-law disputes. The service allows car manufacturers to sign up and let the BBB settle all complaints and disputes related to their cars.
This article was written together with Richard Craft, an MBA student who looks forward to helping you understand the business world better. He recommends that your business take a look at BBB Fort Worth and see how they can help your business operate better.