BBB Starts Letter-Grade Ratings System

November 24, 2008

The Better Business Bureau has announced it will assign letter grades, ranging from A+ to F, to local businesses to help consumers make better-informed decisions on where to spend their money.

The 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 1,875 local businesses by reviewing BBB Reliability Reports, which are available online and free of charge at 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 Andy Fisher, BBB spokesperson. "These reports make it extremely easy and convenient for consumers to research and compare local businesses—before they buy."

The 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. Ratings factors include:

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

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

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, 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 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 nonaccredited businesses in BBB's database will receive a letter grade as part of their report.

For more information about BBB ratings and to find out which local businesses made the grade, visit