|Better Business Bureau Powerless to Resolve Consumer Complaints
Tell your friends and family that you have some type of consumer complaint. We bet that at least half of them will tell you to contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for resolution. But we also bet you that not a single one of them ever used them to satisfactorily resolve a complaint.
So, can the BBB really help consumers? More often than not, the BBB simply ends up frustrating consumers who have gone to the BBB for support only to find that they ended up wasting time. Many consumers are surprised to learn that the Better Business Bureau was unable to assist them in resolving their issues and then find that statutes of limitations have expired or are close to expiring.
NCCC has long held a position against relying solely on organizations like the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in favor of more traditional consumer protection avenues, such as the Consumer Protection Division of the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office. While the BBB may offer consumers a medium with which to communicate with a business and voice their concerns, they are ultimately powerless and unable to force a business to do anything.
Satisfactory membership in the BBB generally involves the paying of a membership fee and responding to a consumer complaint. There are no stipulations that a business do anything to resolve a complaint. In fact, many consumers report that responses from companies through the BBB are often short and do nothing to address their issues.
“Consumers are welcome to file complaints with the Better Business Bureau,” says Brian Reitter, NCCC Vice President. “Consumers should be cautioned, however, that the Better Business Bureau can in no way obligate a business to do anything. While a consumer sits around hoping for a response from a company, a response that might never come, that consumer could have already contacted the North Carolina Attorney General and begun legal proceedings.”
Letters written on behalf of the Attorney General’s Office generally receive satisfactory resolutions to consumer complaints very quickly. In cases where the business does not respond or is engaging in illegal acts, the Attorney General, as the chief law enforcement officer in the state, can step in and take legal action on the consumer’s behalf. The BBB cannot.
Sometimes you can see that a company has an "A" rating, but that doesn't mean the company is trustworthy. It simply means that the company has responded to the BBB about complaints, not necessarily that the complaints were resolved to the consumer's satisfaction. Compare it to taking a test in school and getting a perfect score just for turning it in, even if none of your answers or "responses" are correct.
“The BBB can give a consumer an indication of the company by complaint statistics, which might make a consumer think twice about a certain company," continues Reitter. We merely recommend consumers not ignore other avenues and explore all options available to them before so much time has expired that they are unable to take further action.”