BBB Changes Its Business Ratings to A+ Through F Letter-Grade Scale

January 13, 2010

BBB Will Use a 16-factor Formula – Making it Easier for Consumers to Find Trustworthy Businesses

Saint Paul, MN – January 6, 2009 – Today, Better Business Bureau of MN and ND announced it is launching improved versions of its BBB Reliability Reports™, which include a more detailed A+ through F letter-grade replacing the previous ratings scale of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory”.

BBB provides reports on more than four million businesses, all online and free of charge at New letter-grades are prominently displayed on business reports to help consumers more easily and quickly identify and compare the reliability of businesses.

“Consumers want more than marketing spin or a few comments about a business posted on the Internet, and rightly so, because given tough economic conditions, they literally can’t afford to make bad buying decisions,” said Barb Grieman, interim president of the BBB of MN and ND.  “BBB’s improved reports provide detailed insight into a business’s track record and are based on our time-tested standards, in-depth research and the millions of consumer complaints filed with BBB.”

BBB’s new letter-grade concept was first developed by BBB Colton (Los Angeles), and has been test marketed effectively by Colton and several other 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 BBB’s ongoing commitment to making it easier for consumers to find trustworthy businesses.

BBB’s proprietary ratings formula takes into account 16 weighted factors, using objective information and actual incidences of a business’s behavior that have been verified and evaluated by BBB professionals. Ultimately, a letter-grade rating represents BBB’s degree of confidence that a business is operating in a trustworthy manner and will make a good faith effort to resolve any customer concerns.

Specific issues affecting a business’s rating are described in detail in BBB Reliability Reports™. Ratings factors are:

  • The type of business and its business model
  • How long the business has been operating
  • Whether the business has appropriate competency licensing
  • Total volume of complaints filed against the business
  • The number of unanswered complaints
  • The number of unresolved complaints
  • The number of serious complaints
  • An overall complaint analysis
  • The number of complaints with delayed resolution
  • Government actions against the business
  • Any advertising issues found by BBB
  • The extent of background information available to BBB for evaluation
  • The extent to which BBB is able to develop a clear understanding of the business
  • Whether the business has honored any mediation/arbitration commitments
  • Whether the business has attained BBB Accredited Business status
  • Whether the business has had its BBB Accreditation revoked

Rating factors also take into account 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, in October 2007, BBB also 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 BBB and have contractually agreed to meet and uphold BBB’s high standards for integrity and reliability when dealing with consumers.

“Consumers from all walks of life want to do business with reliable companies whether auto repair shops, home improvement contractors, mortgage counselors or online firms,” added Grieman. “BBB has been providing information people can trust for nearly 100 years, and combined, BBB Accreditation and letter-grade ratings are valuable new resources consumers can start with when they are looking for trustworthy businesses.”

Both BBB Accredited Businesses and non-accredited businesses in BBB’s database will receive a letter grade as part of their report.

About BBB
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, 125 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 4 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit for more information about BBB.