9 Things We Learned About Why Better Business Bureau Ratings Don’t Mean Much

In a lengthy nationwide investigation of Better Business Bureaus across the country, CNN interviewed businesses, consumers, and watchdogs, ultimately learning that how consumers see the organizations as something different, and a good grade from a local Bureau doesn’t guarantee that a business is trustworthy.

  1. The Better Business Bureau isn’t a government entity that serves as a consumer watchdog: you’ll need to contact your state attorney general for that.
  2. There isn’t one single Better Business Bureau covering the whole country: there’s more than 100, which together form the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
  3. The Council does have standards: the former BBB in Los Angeles was shut down after a blogger managed to gain accreditation for the terrorist group Hamas, a prank that was aired on ABC News’ “20/20” in 2011.
  4. Your local Better Business Bureau doesn’t claim to be a consumer watchdog: if you ask (and CNN did) they will claim to be a mediator between consumers and businesses when problems come up.
  5. Companies maintain their good rating if they’re able to “resolve” their complaints, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the customer will be satisfied.
  6. Companies under investigation or actually charged with wrongdoing by government entities can maintain a pristine BBB rating: for example, settling with the federal government over allegedly filing illegal debt collection suits against members of the military didn’t affect the rating of Military Credit Services.
  7. Having active lawsuits from a customer doesn’t necessarily lower a business’s grade.
  8. Local BBBs earn most of their money from dues paid by members, and some former members report their ratings plummeting after they decided not to renew.
  9. Businesses claim that local BBBs put more effort in notifying members than non-members about complaints, when not responding to complaints tanks their rating.

Slammed by the government, A-rated by the Better Business Bureau [CNN]