The BBB's Beginnings
Originally called “Vigilance Committees” or Advertising Clubs, the first Better Business Bureaus (BBB) were established in the early 1900s. Their goal was to correct advertising abuses. In response to marketplace demands, BBBs quickly expanded to monitor business performance and provide consumers with vital information to avoid the pitfalls in the marketplace.
Today’s BBBs are committed to the belief that the majority of marketplace problems can be corrected through voluntary self-regulation. They champion the cause of consumers and hold businesses accountable to the highest standards of honesty in their advertising and selling.
There are over 150 BBBs in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico that directly help nearly 20 million consumers and businesses each year. True to their faith in the virtues of the private sector, BBBs are nonprofit organizations that are financed almost exclusively by membership dues—dues paid for by businesses and professional firms in local communities.
American government and business leaders from the past to the present day have proudly acknowledged that the BBB has rightly "earned the confidence and gratitude of the American public."
BBB members are businesses and firms which meet tough BBB membership standards, agree to follow the highest principles of business ethics and voluntary self-regulation, and have accepted an invitation from the BBB to join.
BBB members are subject to the same scrutiny BBBs give all businesses. Staunchly neutral, BBBs provide reports on a company’s general background and consumer complaint history, if any. These reports cover member and non-member businesses alike.
As a rule, a BBB business report will contain:
BBBs also report a company’s membership in the BBB or participation in BBB programs.
BBB Complaint Handling
Usual Steps To Follow
In some situations, the BBB may be unable to obtain cooperation from a company. A pattern of unanswered or unresolved complaints becomes a part of that company’s BBB record and is reported to any persons who ask about that company. An unsatisfactory report will lead to termination of a company’s BBBmembership if applicable. In extreme cases, the BBB may refer its file on a company to a law enforcement agency to determine if legal action is warranted.
BBB Dispute Resolution
BBBs help to resolve buyer/seller disputes with businesses by means of conciliation, mediation, and arbitration, as appropriate. The BBB may offer the following dispute resolution options:
Conciliation: The BBB staff helps the customer and business communicate so they can resolve their dispute informally;
Mediation: A professionally trained mediator meets with the parties and guides them in working out their own mutually agreeable solutions; or
Arbitration: The parties state their views at an arbitration hearing, offer evidence, and let an impartial third party from the BBB’s pool of certified arbitrators make the decision that will end the dispute.
Many companies sign pre-commitment pledges with BBBs to arbitrate disputes. These pledges offer interested businesses the opportunity to commit in advance to resolve any disputes not settled through conciliation. BBBs draw upon the experience of over 5,000 BBB-trained arbitrators, mediators, and staff to resolve buyer/seller disputes.
Although the BBB greatly helps consumers and businesses through information and business self-regulation, it is not a government agency, nor does it have law enforcement powers.
How BBBs Help You
As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is to promote an ethical marketplace. It does so by providing the following information and services to consumers and businesses: