The BBBOnLine Reliability Program has bugged me for some time now. This is a program the Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers its members in which they can place a seal (as shown to the left) on their web site indicating they are a BBB member which then links to the company’s online profile. It requires its own fees in addition to what a company pays to be a BBB member. The program discriminates against businesses who solely conduct business online. This bothers me to no end. Let me tell you why.
We are a member of the Central/Northern Arizona branch of the BBB. We pay dues every 6 months which are based on the number of employees you currently have.
The reason why we belong to the BBB is to help establish credibility for our company. We want to convey the message to our existing and potential clients that we will be fair, honest, and offer a superb level of customer service. If the customer is not happy, they can use the BBB as a middleman to resolve any conflicts.
As such, we like any other business that is a BBB member wish to display our membership Before the day of the World Wide Web (graphical Internet), companies would demonstrate their membership by placing the BBB logo (as shown below) in their print advertising and collateral materials. Additionally they send you a certificate each year that you can place in your physical location.
However, what if you do not have printed or collateral materials or even a physical location but instead your business presence is online? Are you able to use the logo on your site, even link to your profile so that existing and and potential clients can see that you are a member? Absolutely not. You must join the BBBOnLine Reliability Program and pay additional fees. There is no exception to the rule if you only exist in the online world. This is discrimination in my book.
Now we do have a physical office but clients rarely visit it. Being an Internet services company we also do not have a physical storefront of any kind. Most of our new clients find us online where we have our Internet presence and even existing clients mostly deal with us via telephone, email and through the client extranet we have set up. Furthermore we rarely advertise and in cases where we do, it is online. This leaves us no option of displaying our BBB membership with the exception of being forced into the Reliability Program.
There was one year where I cancelled our involvement in the program and instead placed the regular BBB logo that you would use in traditional advertising material and then linked it to our online profile. We got away with it for about a year until someone snitched us out. We were forced to remove the logo as well as any links to our online profile.
I fought them on this to no avail stating that they were in fact discriminating online business by their policies. If members are allowed to display the logo in their brick and mortar businesses, then they should be able to do the same in their online businesses.
“Sorry, that is against policy,” was the only reply I received. So naturally I once again succumbed to being forced to pay extra fees so I can display the logo online.
The BBB could argue that they are providing an additional service by making member’s online profiles available. However, consumers can go directly to any local BBB site and find those anyway. In other words they are already making them available to anyone who wishes to view them whether a member is paying to be part of the Reliability Program or not.
So it goes right back to the fact that the BBB discriminates against online business. There is really no other way to look at it, is there?
I would like to see the BBB to evolve into the 21st Century, realize we are in a digital age and stop exhorting additional funds from members who want to display the logo on their web sites. They need to recognize a web site as a “place of business” and stop treating it like it is some kind of special privilege.
It is not that they are charging an exorbitant amount of money – rather it is the principle of the matter. There are so many businesses these days that only have online presence. Sure they may have an office somewhere or even a distribution center where they ship product.
However real customers never visit those locations. Instead they rely on the Internet to attract and conduct business. Until the BBB changes their policy, they themselves are not being honest, fair, or providing the best level of customer service to their members.
Postscript: As an update to this, I was contacted a few weeks after originally posting this article later by someone from the BBB whom I originally expected to inform me to cease and desist but actually had congratulated me on writing a post that was a pet peeve of his. He said that he had been pushing for the BBB to change their policy concerning the use of their logo online and that my post was helping to speed up the process.
So to my surprise I just recently received (April 2007) a bill from the BBB to renew the program for another year which tells me that they are not only still discriminating against online business but they have also raised the fee from $135 a year to $177.50.
I’m refusing to pay this but will continue to use the logo until they revoke my membership, I guess. I’m not going to be subject to discrimination simply because our web sites are the only means we have of announcing our membership.
I’ve had BBB on my site in the past… I never had much reaction to it overtly as I never had any complaints.
I like BBB for credibility, but when you really look into the credibility aspect, they don’t offer much.
I like the fact that the BBB does a business review before accepting a company into the program.
Our membership came for renewal and our website was audited. We were told that we cannot use “We are member of BBB” on our website? Why? It doesn’t make any sense to me. We are paying dues. We are members, but we cannot show it on our website. Too bad, because we are Internet company and most of our business comes from our website. Local BBB told us that we can use the same verbiage on our business cards or Yellow pages. I honestly don’t understand what is the difference? Why Yellow pages or business cards are OK? We don’t advertise in Yellow pages and we are not planning to do that.
The BBB logo really means very little anymore.
I did business with a carpet company (actual name removed). It bears a BBB endorsement. Only problem, there is no company by that name registered with the State of Florida. I brought this to the attention of the BBB of NW FL and received written communication from their president. He wrote “Thank you for the interest in BBB files and reports. I spoke with the company owner and he indicated he would have the Inc removed from company name on the web site. When this change occurs I will consider this issue over.”
Over? He is now endorsing another unregistered Florida business. According to the Florida Division of Corporations’ web site, there is no registration of the company, a fictitious name or a DBA under the name of the owner.
Add to the above the web site’s claim that they had been in business since 1987 which the BBB did not seem to take exception with in spite of the fact the company did not register with the State and the only company I found registered to the owner was registered in 1995 not 1987. So I guess claims that are unsupported are okay too.
Trust the BBB logo at your own risk. They obviously don’t do business reviews in NW Florida.
This post is in response to the business owner claiming that the BBB discriminates against purely online firms. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately, this business owner, and another with a similar opinion above, seem to suffer from not wanting to play by the rules. First, the online world is a much different animal than the traditional brick-and-mortar one. For instance, the BBB spends more man hours checking and rechecking member websites to be sure these sites conform to federal FTC laws, as well as our own standards governing online transactions. Simply put: We incur higher costs consequent to our need to scrutinize member websites, both initially, and in an ongoing basis. Were we not to perform such ongoing checks, the BBB that the public has come to trust would be devalued over time.
As for the admitted breaking of BBB rules & regulations: If I had my druthers, I would like to see the BBB sue the said company for trademark infringement. In fact, such unabashed trademark infringement and blatant deception qualifies, in my book, this company as operating fraudulently and with the intent to deceive. Ironically, this very unethical behavior is precisely why the BBB exists. Can you imagine if everyone who didn’t “feel good” about a law that they “felt” was unfair, just ignored such laws and acted as a rogue and narcissistic person? Our society itself would be imperiled by such chaos.
The BBB has its rules for very good reasons, and if you don’t like the rules, then DON’T participate. The BBB is a voluntary organization that is used by more than 110 million consumers annually and more than 250,000 satisfied members.
The above crooks should be glad that I do not know who they are, because again, I would pursue with rigor a lawsuit against such brazen, white collar criminals!
As far as the “BBB spending more man hours checking and rechecking member websites to be sure these sites conform to federal FTC laws, as well as their own standards governing online transactions,” I don’t buy that, and even if it were true, that should be an operating cost. And if the BBB does spend such time checking online businesses, why not brick and mortar? That’s discrimination.
The point I am trying to make is that online businesses should not have to pay an additional fee to be able to represent the fact that they are members when the only way they can do so is via their web sites. It was a bad policy to begin with and still is.
As far as “breaking the law” that is stretching it a bit, don’t you think? As BBB members, we have the right to use the trademark on print advertising as well as television but cannot on a web site unless we pay additional fees? That’s just bad policy and discrimination in my book. I pay member dues and have the right to allow people to know we are members, whether I do that in print, in person, on television or online. I shouldn’t be forced to pay additional fees because as you allege, the BBB spends more man hours with online businesses.
Why not charge construction companies higher dues then because they generate more complaints? Or charge companies that receive complaints fees on top of their member dues because “BBB man hours” have been spent dealing with the complaint? Ridiculous!
I personally never considered sites with the BBB logo to be more credible then the ones without. I agree that discriminating online companies is unfair (we live in 21 century after all), as there are thousands of legitimate online businesses.
This post came up in an online search for lawsuits filed against the BBB. My comment is not related to the logo or online business with the BBB, it is more oriented to the 12/25 statement by Spencer. I consider no online or physical site, with the logo of the BBB to be any more credible than those without. In fact, I see any company displaying the BBB logo and it’s “reliability” statement as either being not fully aware of how little the BBB does that is based on facts (or) as a company that could potentially share the same disregard for true credibility that the BBB shows.
Here is my point: The BBB, when you truly delve deep enough into it, misleads consumers searching it’s engine by wordsmithing their marketing to sound like they have some kind of government or legal ability and backing…to open “cases”, to “report”, to “rate”. The list goes on and on if you truly read what they sell.
The reality is, the BBB is a company that sells franchises. No different than a fast food franchise, etc. These individually owned branches of the BBB and the corporate BBB have no legal authority. They have no government backing. They have no law enforcement ability nor do they have any legal help that they sell, they have no “counseling” for businesses other than a stable full of form letters and consumer tips. None of which I would have any problem with, if the work they do was not tooted up to be “under their first right amendment to free speech”.
As a business owner and as a consumer, I see nothing but harm to both parties, the consumer and the business, in utilizing the “services” “offered” by the BBB. Amounts to nothing more than an online tabloid format for either the customer from a dark place to rant and vent with no true verification of facts and reality and/or a business who may either be a victim of that client (or) be a shoddy company…..to ultimately be harmed. In closing, please know that a simple search online will bring you many, many consumers who feel similar ways and who have no trust of the BBB having been either in it’s sights (or) know someone who has. You might be much, much better off, rather than trying to get their logo next to your name, to spend your time distancing yourself from such an organization.