BBB Sends Businesses Back to School With New Letter-Grade Ratings System

January 05, 2009

Find out which companies earn an A+ and which get a failing grade from your BBB

January 5, 2009 - In order to help consumers make better-informed decisions on where to spend their hard-earned dollars, the Better Business Bureau today announced it will now assign letter grades to local businesses ranging from A+ to F. The letter grade system—which replaces a less-detailed scale of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory”— represents BBB’s degree of confidence that the business is operating in a trustworthy manner and will make a good faith effort to resolve customer concerns.

Consumers can research the grades of more than 17,000 local businesses by reviewing BBB Reliability Reports™, which are available online and free of charge at In addition to noting the business’s letter grade, BBB Reliability Reports™ also include details about integrity and performance, such as the number of complaints a business has received, their response to complaints, and details on any government actions against the business.

“Given the current tough economic conditions, consumers literally can’t afford to make bad buying decisions,” said Kelvin Collins, President/CEO of the BBB of Central Georgia & the CSRA. “These reports make it extremely easy and convenient for consumers to research and compare local businesses—before they buy.”

The BBB’s new letter-grade concept was first developed by BBB Colton (Los Angeles), and has been test marketed effectively by several BBBs (New Mexico, Santa Barbara, Asheville and West Palm Beach). That original concept, with modifications recommended by a national BBB committee, is the basis for the approach announced today, and is part of the BBB’s ongoing commitment to making it easier for consumers to find trustworthy businesses.

The BBB’s proprietary ratings formula takes into account 16 weighted factors, using objective information and actual incidences of a business’ behavior that have been verified and evaluated by BBB professionals. Specific issues affecting a business’s rating are described in detail in BBB Reliability Reports™. Ratings factors include:

· The business’s overall complaint history with the BBB, including the number and severity of complaints to the BBB from customers

· Whether complaints have been resolved in a timely manner or the business has demonstrated a good faith effort to resolve them

· How long the business has been operating and whether it meets appropriate competency licensing

· Government actions against the business related to marketplace activities

· Advertising issues evaluated by the BBB

· Whether the business is a BBB Accredited Business and has committed to BBB standards

Rating factors also take into account the BBB’s opinion as to whether business models and industries operate in violation of the law, misrepresent products and services, and are likely to generate trade practice concerns and/or have high levels of customer dissatisfaction.

As part of its strategy to build trust in the marketplace, the BBB also recently changed the way businesses affiliated with the organization were designated, from “BBB Member” to “BBB Accredited Business.” The “Accredited” designation highlights the fact that businesses have been evaluated by the BBB and have contractually agreed to meet and uphold BBB’s high standards for integrity and reliability when dealing with consumers.

Both BBB Accredited Businesses and non-accredited businesses in the BBB’s database will receive a letter grade as part of their report. For more information on BBB ratings and to find out which local businesses made the grade, go to

About the BBB The BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 126 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring nearly 4 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit for more information about BBB.