What Is the Better Business Bureau?

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) was born out of so-called ‘vigilance committees’ which arose in the early 1900s to correct advertising abuses and help facilitate consumer trust in the marketplace. There are more than 100 independently incorporated local BBB organizations spanning the U.S and Canada. It is important to acknowledge that the BBB is not affiliated with any governmental agency.

In response to marketplace demands, BBBs have expanded to more thoroughly monitor business advertising and provide consumers with vital information to avoid misleading sales practices and poorly run businesses.

Modern BBBs are bound to the belief that the majority of marketplace problems can be corrected through self-regulation. They stand with consumers and hold businesses accountable to the highest standards of honesty in their advertising and sales practices.

How the Better Business Bureau Works

The BBB acts as a channel to collect consumer complaints about businesses and help make them aware of the complaints. It then monitors the progress of the complaint as businesses are given the opportunity to address and correct the issue. This info is used to create a BBB Rating which is readily available to consumers.

Since being responsive to customer complaints is a core component for the BBB Reporting Standards, a failure to respond to a BBB complaint can negatively impact the BBB rating of a business.

How Do I Check a Company with the Better Business Bureau?

Simply search www.bbb.org for the business name in your area based on your zip code. You can also search by type or category of business, for example if you are seeking a reputable mortgage broker or contractor in your area.

The BBB also has information on charities available, though you might consider using a more specialized charity rating service for this purpose.

How Better Business Bureau Ratings Work

BBB ratings represent the organization's assessment of how the business is likely to interact with its customers, and they are based on a variety of information the BBB is able to obtain about the business, including public complaints.

The BBB assigns its ratings on an intuitive scale from A+ (highest) to F (lowest). In cases that include a pending business review or insufficient information, the BBB will assign a business an NR or “No Rating.”

Are the Better Business Bureau Ratings Trustworthy?

In order to be viewed as a private, objective authority, the BBB’s policy is to prohibit itself from recommending or endorsing any specific business or company. Instead, the BBB relies on public consumer reporting and attempts to serve as a watchdog and reporter of services a business provides.

However, businesses are encouraged to become accredited members of the BBB, which creates the perception of a “pay to play” system as members generally receive higher BBB ratings. This is largely due to the methodology the BBB uses to measure a business’s responsiveness to complaints, though in reality this may skew ratings in the favor of member companies even when consumer complaints are not actually resolved.

Buyer beware! Better Business Bureaus still can provide a useful reference for local companies, though it is always best to check multiple sources in your search to include publicly available online reviews and trusted referrals. BBBs often help identify and publicize local scams as well.