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What Small Businesses Should Know: Better Business Bureau

Manasa Reddigari

The Better Business Bureau has long helped defend consumers against unsavory business practices. But, what does the organization do for businesses like yours? Here's what small business owners need to know about the Better Business Bureau.

What is the Better Business Bureau?

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a non-profit whose mission is to build that trust between businesses and consumers. The BBB participates in the following activities:

  • Creating an ethical marketplace of trustworthy companies and charities
  • Defining best practices for marketplace trust
  • Educating consumers and businesses on marketplace best practices
  • Providing consumers free reviews on millions of businesses
  • Resolving disputes between businesses and consumers
  • Identifying and addressing unethical marketplace behavior
  • Demonstrating positive examples of business role models in the marketplace

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Why should small business care about the BBB?

The BBB organization comprises over one hundred local BBBs operating in the United States and Canada. Consumers can submit positive or negative reviews or file complaints about businesses.  Businesses can apply for and receive BBB accreditation. This means your business met high ethical standards for doing business. It also means you'll respond to complaints filed against your business.  But people can still file complaints against non-BBB accredited businesses. This is why it is important to get to know your local BBB.

What if somebody files a complaint against your business?

The BBB encourages consumers to reach out to the business they are having a dispute with before filing a BBB complaint. But, they can file a grievance without contacting the business directly.  If the complaint filed is valid, the BBB will contact your business within one to five days. Only BBB-accredited businesses are obligated to respond. The BBB encourages everyone to respond, though.  If you don't respond, you will receive a follow-up request. The consumer will receive your response once the BBB gets it. The BBB will follow-up with the consumer to ensure his satisfaction.  The BBB will close the complaint if the response satisfies the consumer. If they're not happy, you can turn to the BBB to resolve the dispute.

How the Better Business Bureau can help resolve disputes

The BBB can step in as an impartial third-party to help resolve disputes. Generally, the BBB can do:  Conciliation: The BBB staff will gather information from both the business and consumer and encourage the parties to communicate openly until the resolution of the dispute.  Mediation: A professionally-trained mediator from the BBB will talk to both parties to reach a dispute resolution.  Informal dispute resolution (IDS): A professionally-trained hearing from the BBB will recommend a non-binding dispute resolution.  Conditionally-binding arbitration: A professionally-trained arbitrator from the BBB will recommend a dispute resolution that is binding if the customer accepts the decision.  Binding arbitration: A professionally-trained arbitrator will recommend a dispute resolution that is binding on both parties.  The conciliation method can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to resolve a dispute. Meditation, IDS and arbitration can take longer, but usually fewer than 40 days. You can choose to bring a lawyer to a BBB dispute resolution meeting, but most parties do not. BBB dispute resolution methods are intended to provide a more relaxed and informal alternative to going to court to resolve the matter.

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