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Better Business Bureau
BBB logo
Founded 1912
Area served United States United States
Canada Canada
Focus Consumer Protection

The Better Business Bureau (BBB), founded in 1912, is a corporation consisting of several private business franchises of local BBB organizations based in the United States and Canada, which work together through the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB). The BBB goal is to foster a fair and effective marketplace, so that buyers and sellers can trust each other ("Start With Trust"). Many BBB services can be accessed online through their website.

BBBs gather and report information on business reliability, alert the public to frauds against consumers and businesses, provide information on ethical business practices, and act as mutually trusted intermediaries between consumers and businesses to resolve disputes. News media frequently turn to the CBBB and local BBBs as expert sources of news about scams and consumer issues.



"Medical quackery and the promotions of nostrums and worthless drugs were among the most prominent abuses which led to the establishment of formal self-regulation in business and, in turn, to the creation of the NBBB."[1]

BBB's inception has been credited to the court cases, such as United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola, initiated by the government against a number of firms, including the Coca-Cola Company, in 1906 after the Pure Food and Drug Act had become law. Samuel Candler Dobbs, sales manager of Coca-Cola and later its president, took up the cause of truth in advertising.

In 1909, Dobbs became president of the Associated Advertising Clubs of America, now the American Advertising Federation (AAF), and began to make speeches on the subject. In 1911, he was involved in the adoption of the "Ten Commandments of Advertising", one of the first codes of advertising developed by groups of advertising firms and individual businesses. Similar organizations in succeeding decades, such as the National Better Business Commission, Inc. of the Associated Advertising Clubs of the World (1921), and the National Association of Better Business Bureaus, Inc. (1933) merged to become the Association of Better Business Bureaus, Inc in 1946. In 1970, the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) was established.


Local BBBs are independently governed by their own boards of directors, but must meet international BBB requirements, which are monitored and enforced by the CBBB on a continuous basis. The CBBB is governed by leaders of local BBBs, as well as by senior executives from major American corporations, and community leaders such as academics and legal experts.

Each BBB entity is run separately. Businesses that move from one BBB jurisdiction to another may need to apply for BBB Accreditation in the new BBB location unless they have a system-wide accreditation.

Core services

BBB core services include:

  • Business Reliability Reports
  • Fraud Prevention
  • Complaints and Dispute Resolution
  • Truth-in-Advertising
  • Consumer and Business Education
  • Wise Giving Charity Reports
  • Charity Accountability and Effectiveness Education

Business reliability

Companies that are invited to join the BBB as Accredited Businesses must meet the BBB Standards for Trust[2] and maintain all requirements of BBB Accreditation, including payment of annual dues. Businesses that agree to the BBB dispute resolution procedures may identify themselves as Accredited. If Accredited Businesses fail to meet the BBB's Standards, their accreditation is revoked.

BBB Accredited Businesses make a commitment to conduct their business affairs with reliability and integrity, in accordance with BBB Standards and guidelines.

The Better Business Bureau name and torch logo can be used by accredited businesses. The logo use by accredited business is only allowed on printed material; to use the logo on a website the business needs to join the BBOnline Accredited Business Seal program.

Dispute resolution procedures

The organization's dispute resolution procedures are established by the Council of the Better Business Bureaus, and implemented by local BBBs. Usually, disputes can be resolved through mediation; when appropriate, low or no-cost arbitration may also be offered and provided through the BBB. The BBB acts as a neutral party when providing dispute resolution services.

Complaints about the practice of professions like medicine, law and accounting are usually not handled by the BBB and are referred to associations regulating those professions.

Truth in advertising

The National Advertising Division of the CBBB (NAD) reviews national advertising for truthfulness and accuracy, and fosters public confidence in advertising accuracy. Its policies and procedures are established by the National Advertising Review Council (NARC). The Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of this BBB entity reviews advertising directed to children. The BBB also administers the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, a voluntary self-regulation program undertaken in cooperation with major corporations. This initiative is designed to shift the mix of advertising messaging to children to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles.

Wise Giving Alliance

The BBB's Wise Giving Alliance reviews and reports on national charities, using the 20 BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability. Detailed national charity reports may be found on the BBB website. Many local BBBs also review charities in their regions and publish detailed charity reports on their local websites.

Website resources

BBB websites offer video content, online resources, and educational tools for consumers. Each local BBB offers a unique assortment of educational resources, tailored to meet the needs of its community. The organization also has BBB channel on YouTube, news alerts featured on individual BBB websites, and BBB videos.


The BBB does not recommend specific businesses to consumers, but simply supplies information.[2] Regarding how a group funded by businesses can be fair to consumers, the bureau's website states that its value to businesses depends on its neutrality.[3]

BBBs have been accused of unduly protecting companies.[4] The BBB responds by, at a minimum, notating complaints on the "Reliability Report" section of its web sites.[5] If a branch does not act reasonably on behalf of a consumer, a complaint may be filed with the Federal Trade Commission.

Criticism on Biased Rating System

On June 1, 2009, BBB offices nationwide adopted an A-F ratings system.[6] This grading system has been criticised for being biased,[7] and has led to specific BBB investigation sites. A BBB representative has stated that only fee-paying accredited businesses can receive an "A+" rating, though this is not clearly explained on the bureau's website.[8]

Criticism on case resolutions

It has been reported that the BBB encourages and solicits money from the very businesses they have been monitoring. This has not been beneficial to the customer as expected it to be.[9]

Membership Privileges:Use of Accreditation term

Instead of pronouncing a firm "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory" in its reliability reports, the bureau is now issuing a new label, "accredited," that any business can obtain by becoming a BBB member. Council CEO Steven Cole says the business will still have to meet certain standards, but a number of chapter presidents expressed concern that disturbed companies could use the label to hide problems.[10]


  1. ^ Ladimer, Irving "The Health Advertising Program of the National Better Business Bureau" A.J.P.H. Vol. 55, No. 8. Aug. 1965
  2. ^ a b "BBB: Standards of Trust". BBB. Retrieved 2009-02-03.  
  3. ^ "The Better Business Bureau FAQs and Information – U.S. BBB". BBB. Retrieved 2009-06-10.  
  4. ^ Rip-off Report: Better Business Bureau or Buyer Better Beware? BBB Nationwide Alert! THE FOX GUARDING THE HEN HOUSE]
  5. ^ "2005 Annual Report of the Council of Better Business Bureaus". Council of Better Business Bureaus. Retrieved 2009-01-14.  
  6. ^ "New BBB Letter-Grade A+ Through F Ratings System Helps Businesses Evaluate Suppliers, Improve Operations". eNews Park Forest.  
  7. ^ "Better Business Bureau grades companies on a peculiar curve". LA Times.  
  8. ^ "Better Business Bureau grades companies on a peculiar curve (page 2)". LA Times. Retrieved 2009-06-10.  
  9. ^ BBB nation wide alert
  10. ^ Is the BBB Too Cozy With the Firms It Monitors?

External links


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