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Better Business Bureau Under Fire After 20/20 Exposure Reveals Shakedown Tactic

November 24th, 2010 | Posted under Business & Consumer | No responses

How would you feel if a trusted source you’ve been using, one that’s been around for almost a century, suddenly came under fire what is being called fraudulent and misleading practices?  A lot of consumers are feeling a bite to the stomach after recent events painted a new and more realistic picture of the Better Business Bureau and how it conducts business in the new millennium.

20/20, the popular prime-time news magazine program from network ABC recently posted and aired a story that takes steady aim at the Council of Better Business Bureaus (BBB) criticized reliability report rating system.

During the episode which first aired on Nov 11, 2010, correspondent Brian Ross (Chief Investigator) discovered even more accusations of improprieties and payoffs within this massive “consumer watchdog” organization.

Business owners are angry, confused and frustrated over the popular rating system and public Reliability Reports – calling them a ‘shake down’ and a ‘scam’ in light of recent discoveries.  During the long report that was aired, 20/20 highlighted numerous businesses that had found themselves under fire during the course of their business by upset customers.  The extent of complaints?  Two or less.  Most of the business owners had been running their businesses for more than 10 years with only 1 or 2 complaints.  Each of them had their complaints resolved yet still suffered a C rating on the BBB website.

When those business owners contacted the BBB to seek resolution, they were told they could improve their grade by becoming accredited members of the Better Business Bureau – a membership that carries a steep price tag at approximately $400.  With 20/20 investigators sitting in the room while the business owners were on the phone, they paid their fee with a credit card and 24 hours later found A ratings on the website.

So what happens if you refuse to pay and “opt out” of becoming a member of the BBB?  Wolfgang Puck certainly knows.  As do Disneyland and the Ritz Carlton, Boston Commons.  Both of these renowned companies choose not to pay for the BBB accreditation and both faced an F grade.  After public outcry and questioning from bloggers (as well as the spot on 20/20) both of those companies had their grades climb to an A+ rating.

Brian Craft wasn’t so lucky, unfortunately.  His business, which has been hit with inaccurate complains due to an address issue, has spent more than a million dollars trying to fix his grade.  He once held a C grade and after confronting the BBB to fix the mistake his grade was changed to an F.  He has spent more than $1 million battling the BBB to get the grade changed.

Nutriforce has gone through the same scarlet letter application – Where this organization once held an A- rating the BBB applied the same Pay to Play methods.

Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s Attorney General, summarizes the attitude of many when he stated that “this rating system is really unworthy of consumer trust and confidence”.

A response was hastily posted on the BBB’s website the day after the interview was aired where Steve Cox, President & CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, stated “In some of the business ratings cited by the media, we didn’t get it right. We are looking into these specific incidents. We owe it to the public to get it right every time. We will work diligently to achieve that goal.”

While there are growing numbers of business owners that are criticizing the practices of the BBB, and consumers are now questioning their grip on factual ratings, Cox has summarily dismissed the criticism and questions raised in the 20/20 broadcast.  His response stated that “any attempt to question the integrity of the entire BBB organization is completely and totally without merit.”

Consumers, business owners and many others now feel otherwise.

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