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What is the Better Business Bureau?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a SmartCapitalMind contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Joseph Becket — On Aug 02, 2011

It's important that a company is reliable. When their products do not live up to your standards, it can be frustrating. Sometimes I need a place to get my anger out and tell other people about my issues; to vent. Then I found a site that not only lets me vent, but allows other people to see it and come up with funny paybacks. The responses are so funny!

By anon127465 — On Nov 16, 2010

If you watch the news you will see they are just as crooked as the rest. You only have to pay 300 to 400 dollars to give them a false a for a rating. BBB stinks! Another business turning to greed!

By icecream17 — On Jul 12, 2010

Sunny27- I agree with you. The Better Business Bureau also tells you how many complaints a company as received from consumers.

By Sunny27 — On Jul 12, 2010

Great article- I think that the Better Business Bureau serves a great service to consumers because it informs the public of companies that engage in unsavory business practices.

With more and more businesses starting everyday it is often difficult to determine if a new company is trustworthy.

At least looking to see if a company is affiliated with the Better Business Bureau helps the consumer determine if the company is legitimate or not.

Although it does not tell you everything about the company, a BBB affiliation makes me trust a company more.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a SmartCapitalMind contributor, Tricia...
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