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The Better Business Bureau (BBB)is a private agency formed in 1912 that operates in both Canada and the US. Its goal is to help consumers by publishing reports on the reliability of businesses, reducing fraudulent business activities, educating both companies and businesses about rights and responsibilities, providing information on charities, and resolving disputes.
Since the Better Business Bureau is a private organization, it has no regulatory power over corporations. Companies must enroll and pay for membership; however, consumer and charity reports are not limited to member companies. In addition to enrollment, companies must agree to dispute resolution in order to maintain or claim membership.
In its best endeavors, the BBB functions well as an agency that reports frequent complaints on the part of consumers. However, complaints, unless the company is a member, remain unsubstantiated. If one is evaluating what companies are the most likely to be ethical in their treatment of customers, then one or two unsubstantiated complaints may not be regarded as enough evidence to condemn a company. However, if numerous complaints about a company’s business practices are recorded, this information is likely to be quite helpful.
The Better Business Bureau is also successful for those wishing to make charitable donations. The agency lists the charities that tend to spend the most money on their charitable causes and have a known record of being economically responsible. Choosing a charity from this list likely means that one is wisely bestowing one’s money.
The organization is less successful in its area of dispute resolution. No company has to submit to dispute resolution unless the company wishes to remain in good standing with the agency. Disputes involving mishandling of large sums of money are better resolved in civil court. However, when a consumer observes a company practicing fraudulent advertising, the best action the consumer may take is to fill out a Better Business Bureau report, which takes just a few moments on the Internet. The agency does make reports in the US to the Federal Trade Commission, which may act on, or at the least investigate, a high number of reports.
Since 1995, the Better Business Bureau has developed a group of videos dealing with a number of topics, such as information on car repair, identity theft, and childcare. These videos are distributed to public libraries, where they can be checked out or viewed by interested consumers. Education of this kind can be invaluable to consumers.
Though not all the intentions of the agency are equally fulfilled, the organization can be a helpful resource to both businesses and consumers. Local representatives tend to be accommodating. Consulting the agency can help provide people with information when they consider establishing a new business or purchasing any type of unfamiliar product or service.