Media Stories - FAQs


Recent media stories may have prompted businesses and consumers to question the BBB rating system or complaint process. In response, the Wisconsin BBB has compiled this list of Frequently Asked Questions:

Question: Can businesses buy a higher BBB rating?

Answer: No. Businesses cannot buy a higher rating. BBB ratings are earned, not purchased. The BBB uses 16 different factors to give a BBB rating. In December 2010, the Wisconsin BBB had more than 16,000 companies with an A+, the highest rating possible. Approximately 75 percent of those A+ companies do not financially support the BBB and are not BBB accredited businesses.

Question: Does the BBB favor businesses during the complaint process?

Answer: No. The BBB does not favor businesses during the complaint process. We are a neutral, third-party that acts as an intermediary with the ultimate goal of resolving the issue to the mutual satisfaction of both parties. The majority of complaints filed with the Wisconsin BBB (52%) are resolved and both parties indicate they are satisfied with the result. However, in some cases (14%), the company does not respond to complaints filed with the BBB. And, unfortunately, in some cases (6%) the complaint issue remains unresolved despite the BBB's efforts to come to a mutually agreeable solution. In addition, some complaints (13%) are administratively closed, which means that the BBB believes the company made a good-faith effort to resolve the complaint, but the consumer remained unsatisfied. In a small percentage of cases (2%), the complaint is unpursuable or in other cases (13%) the complaint is beyond the BBB's purview or does not meet our National Complaint Guidelines.

Question: How can the BBB be "neutral" if it's financially supported by businesses?

Answer: The BBB’s services of offering business reviews, dispute resolution, mediation and arbitration are offered to all businesses, regardless of whether they financially support the BBB through its accreditation program or not.

Being fair and unbiased has been the cornerstone of the BBB's operating principles since it was founded 98 years ago. Each year, more than 65 million BBB business reviews are read by consumers. The marketplace would simply not allow the BBB to survive for almost a century if it were not fair or unbiased.

In addition, the BBB's accredited business roster contains businesses who are direct competitors with each other. If the BBB showed favoritism to one business over another, or was more lenient to a business during the complaint process, the other accredited businesses in that industry would not continue their affiliation with the BBB.

Question: What happens if a business does not respond to a BBB complaint?

Answer: The BBB’s main goal is to resolve all complaints. We make several attempts to work with the business to respond to the complaint. However, if a business does not respond to a complaint filed against it with the BBB, we will close the complaint as “unanswered”. This unanswered complaint will be recorded in the company’s public BBB business review and will have a negative impact on the company’s BBB rating. 

If the company is BBB accredited, it is required to respond to all complaints. Being responsive to complaints is one of our eight accreditation standards. If a BBB accredited business is unwilling to work with the BBB to resolve the complaint issue, it’s BBB accreditation is revoked. Last year, we revoked 18 businesses for failure to answer complaints.

Question: Why do you charge for accreditation?

Answer: The BBB was created nearly 100 years ago by integrity-driven business owners to help consumers avoid getting ripped off. BBB continues to be funded by business owners for the benefit of the consumer. The investigations we conduct, the disputes we help resolve, and the reports we create help consumers and are made possible because of companies that believe in supporting our cause. The BBB does not charge consumers for its services and it does not receive any tax dollars to provide more than 4 million instances of service to consumers each year.

Question: How are BBB ratings calculated?

Answer: The BBB calculates a company’s rating based on 16 different factors, including the company’s length of time in business, the size of the company, the number of complaints filed with the BBB and whether the company has a required license.