Consumer Reports: "Still Reason For Concern" About BBB Ratings

Citing examples such as the Better Business Bureau’s A- ratings for Publisher’s Clearinghouse and coin-dealer Universal Syndications, Consumer Reports says there’s “still reason for concern about the accuracy” of the BBB’s ratings, despite recent changes made by the agency.

Consumer Reports points out that, after an ABC News investigation, the BBB “made changes, including dropping its policy of reserving an A+ rating for BBB-accredited businesses.” And the BBB is “an easy source for information about companies and for receiving alerts and tips.” But Consumer Reports says not to “put a lot of credence in a high letter grade or in BBB accreditation.”

[E]arlier this year, we questioned the A- rating that the Canton, Ohio, bureau gave Universal Syndications, which has its headquarters in Ohio and operates the World Reserve Monetary Exchange.

In February 2011 the company had almost 300 complaints during 36 months, and several states and the BBB’s own St. Louis bureau said its advertisements were misleading.

After our inquiry, the Canton bureau changed the company’s grade to B-. It has since been upgraded to B.

During our years of dealing with the BBB, we’ve seen some bureaus, such as the one in St. Louis, aggressively fight for consumers and others that seem asleep at the wheel.

BBB president Stephen A. Cox told Consumer Reports that the public can trust the organization, and that “we have taken and will be taking more steps to ensure that we deliver on the public’s long-standing trust in BBB.”

Consumer Reports says that a low BBB grade could be “a sign of real trouble” for a business, and suggests using the BBB to check the “type and number of BBB complaints and how they’ve been resolved.” Your next step? “Check for complaints or reviews elsewhere.”

Can you trust the Better Business Bureau? [Consumer Reports]