Better Business Bureau Gives Boot To Southern California Chapter Over Pay-To-Play System

The BBB has given the boot to what had been its largest single chapter.

The BBB has given the boot to what had been its largest single chapter.

You may remember how the Better Business Bureau took a lot of heat in 2010 when it inexplicably gave an “A-” rating to a bogus business named “Hamas,” as in the terrorist group, because it paid a $425 membership fee. Now, nearly three years on, the chapter responsible for that cock-up and others is no longer part of the BBB.

ABC News confirmed the expulsion of what had been the largest single chapter in the organization.

“They did not meet our standards,” said Carrie Hurt, the BBB’s president and CEO, adding that the company that runs this chapter “no longer has the right to use the Better Business Bureau name, our logo, or any of our trademarks.”

In addition to the “Hamas” rating, which was for a company that had been conjured out of thin air to test the supposed pay-to-play system at the BBB, other businesses have come forward in the area claiming that they were told the only way to get a good rating was to pay up.

Chef Wolfgang Puck was given an “F” by the chapter a while back and stated his view of the BBB’s ratings system: “If you don’t pay, it’s very difficult to get an A.”

The folks at the actual chapter apparently see things a bit differently. ABC also uncovered a letter dated last Friday, March 8, from the chapter’s chairman of the board to the national office’s general counsel. It’s called a resignation letter, but it appears to have been sent after the chapter had been expelled.

The chapter accuses the national office of manipulating a vote about the ratings system and putting in place a “feature that made it impossible for anyone other than accredited businesses to receive the highest rating!”

The letter claims that after ABC aired the 20/20 story, which brought the “Hamas” story to national attention, the national office “began an intensive campaign to shut us down… Council aggressively sought evidence to support the conclusion that we are noncompliant.”

Now the search begins for a new chapter to pick up where the expelled one left off. Hurt tells ABC that since the area served by this chapter will be without local representation for the immediate future, consumers can still reach out through the national organization’s website.