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What is the Better Business Bureau?

by Chethan G

The Better Business Bureau is an independent nonprofit organization that has its self-identified mission to improve market trust by focusing on improving market accountability, reporting to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and being the central repository for all consumer reports, consumer complaints and consumer debt collections. In addition, the Better Business Bureau is responsible for the enforcement and resolution of any complaints, including the provision of a written warning, corrective action or monetary penalty.

Since its creation in 1912, the Better Business Bureau has provided a vital source of information about consumer concerns. In doing so, the Better Business Bureau has played a role in improving standards of conduct for businesses in all areas, from employment practices, to commercial banking and lending practices and from health care to entertainment, and from real estate to technology. However, the Better Business Bureau also has been criticized by many consumers and businesses, particularly due to the number of complaints filed against it each year. As a result, the Better Business Bureau strives to be more proactive and transparent in its activities.

Since 2020, the Better Business Bureau has created a Center of Excellence, which seeks to improve the services and products that they offer. The Center of Excellence seeks to strengthen the Better Business Bureau’s internal systems, as well as improve the overall effectiveness of its consumer protection activities. The Center of Excellence also seeks to provide the Better Business Bureau with new ways to better serve the public by helping them recognize and respond to consumer concerns and complaints. In addition, the Center of Excellence seeks to improve the quality of the Better Business Bureau’s consumer protection activities by training a new Consumer Protection Office and by increasing the number of employees that work directly with consumers. Finally, the Center of Excellence seeks to improve the consumer protection activities that the Better Business Bureau undertakes by making the Better Business Bureau’s services more accessible to the public and reducing the time necessary to resolve consumer concerns.

Because the Better Business Bureau is charged with the responsibility of implementing the Center of Excellence, it is important to ensure that consumer protection activities are being conducted in an effective manner. Consumer protection is a top priority for the Better Business Bureau, and the Bureau’s Office of Consumer Assistance is dedicated to providing reliable information about consumer complaints, and to educating individuals about their rights under the Fair and Accurate Transactions Act. {FATA). The Office of Consumer Assistance provides confidential assistance to anyone who may have a complaint regarding a business and is responsible for ensuring that all complaints received by the Better Business Bureau are resolved in an appropriate manner. The Office of Consumer Assistance also provides training to business owners, law enforcement personnel and other consumers on how to better handle consumer complaints and how to protect themselves when engaging in such actions.

Consumers can file a complaint by filling out a Consumer Complaint Form or by writing to the Better Business Bureau directly. Complaints can be filed at any point during the year, and a complaint should be submitted before the complaint form reaches the point of filing. The Better Business Bureau staff responds to complaints promptly and thoroughly and provides written notification in the event that a complaint cannot be resolved satisfactorily through one of the methods listed above.

Many people have good experiences with the Better Business Bureau and filing consumer complaint forms; however, not all complaints are resolved quickly or appropriately. Some complaints are not resolved, or if they are resolved, the response is less than satisfactory, and/or is made in a manner that does not meet the expectations of the consumer. If a consumer feels that he or she was treated unfairly by a business that the Better Business Bureau has investigated, then a consumer complaint form should be filed. In some instances, a consumer complaint form may be submitted with a personal complaint and a complaint may be submitted as a formal complaint to the Better Business Bureau.

While it is possible for a consumer complaint to be resolved within one business cycle, this often happens rarely. In order to protect the consumer and provide prompt and thorough resolution of consumer complaints, many businesses utilize an extended business cycle, including six months to a year. The extended business cycle allows the Better Business Bureau to perform extensive, ongoing analysis of business practices to determine which businesses may need to make changes or adjustments. If a business is determined to be doing business in an unfair manner, it will most likely be forced to make changes or adjustments to its existing business practices. After a business has made the necessary changes or adjustments, the process of resolving consumer complaints begins again.

Because the Better Business Bureau is the lead agency of the federal government in the area of consumer protection, the Bureau’s consumer protection division is charged with monitoring the activities of each business entity that is regulated by the FTC rules. The Bureau works closely with local state and local regulators to help ensure compliance with federal laws and regulations. Once the business is determined to be operating in an unfair manner, the State or Local Consumer Protection division of the Better Business Bureau takes over, and begins a comprehensive investigation into the business. The Bureau’s Division of Advertising Practices continues the review process by obtaining additional facts about the business in question and by working closely with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to determine whether or not the business practices violated the laws and regulations set forth by the FTC.

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