It is difficult – maybe even impossible – to be fairly tried in the court of public opinion. That court is swift to cast judgement. And today, between traditional media, social media, and the growing multitude of rating and review sites, there are many such courtrooms. When we believe someone – a person, or a business – has done us wrong, we want retribution. It’s human nature. Having public opinion on our side satisfies that desire for payback.It is sometimes difficult to resist getting caught up in the rush to judgement. And yet, it is fundamental to BBB’s mission that we do.A trial judge may strongly suspect that the accused committed the crime. And yet, to do his or her job properly, that judge must listen objectively to the evidence presented by both sides, and make the decision based on that evidence, rather than on speculation and personal bias.We must do the same.In our heart of hearts, we may feel that a business isn’t ethical, but we cannot allow personal bias to influence the information we present to consumers. Doing so wouldn’t be fair to the company, of course, but it also wouldn’t be fair to consumers, who rely on us to provide validated and verified information.Impartiality is core to our mission. But it’s not just impartiality for its own sake.As you might imagine, we’ve seen businesses which have had a longstanding pattern of complaints, leaving a trail of unhappy customers in their wake. Some people might believe we should simply condemn that business irrevocably; brand them as a ‘bad business’, and not give them the opportunity – as we do with every complaint we receive – to respond. I’d be lying if I said it’s not tempting in some cases to do just that. But we don’t, because doing so wouldn’t be helping to create the kind of trusting marketplace we all want.And as a result, more than a few businesses have actually changed their ways. We’ve seen F-rated businesses commit to a higher standard of conduct, take action to resolve old complaints, fix underlying issues to ensure that their customers are satisfied, and – over time – attain an A+ rating. That takes time; sustained action over years.In those cases, everyone wins. The business is now profitable and sustainable, since they are treating their customers well. Consumers have one more ‘better business’ to work with. Even other companies in that industry benefit, as they can compete fairly on a level playing field.Of course, we’re not always able to make that happen. In some cases, a business simply refuses to change. Their rating stays where it is, and we continue to publish the complaints and customer reviews we receive, and warn consumers about the risks of working with that company.At BBB, we’re human. So just as it would be for anyone, it’s sometimes tempting for us to play judge, jury and executioner in the court of public opinion. And sometimes we ourselves are ‘convicted’ by that court, because we won’t jump into the fray. But just as our legal system relies on judges to be fair and impartial, BBB’s mission demands that we do the same.And every time I see a company turn things around, and commit to truly being a better business, I am reminded why we do what we do, the way we do it.