Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced today that the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has agreed to his demands that it stop awarding rating points for dues and make other minor changes to its rating system.
However, Blumenthal said that he – as well as many consumer advoctates – is concerned that the 120 bureaus around the country and in Canada do not have sufficient resources to verify the information used in its controversial A+ to F ratings.
“I am pleased that the BBB is heeding my call to sever ratings from dues — but more needs to be done,” Blumenthal said. “Pay-to-play — or its perception — is unacceptable and unconscionable, as the BBB has rightly recognized. Cash can no longer inflate BBB ratings, as happened under the old system.”
While awarding the extra points is a positive step, I and other consumer advocates believe that it does not end the abusive practices that have taken place in some BBB chapters where high grades were purchased by becoming accredited BBB members. Nor does it end high pressure marketing where better grades are promised in return for paying annual does, as was pointed out in a recent ABC TV 20/20 investigation.
ABC filmed two small business owners in California with average ratings who immediately were given A+ ratings after they paid $425 each to become accredited members. One company, which had a complaint against it on the BBB website, had the complaint erased. The changes Blumenthal said are being taken will not prevent this from happening. Only by returning to the 95-year-old satisfactory/unsatisfactory rating system and ending letter grades can the BBB restore its lost credibility.
Blumenthal however called it a “significant step.”
He did say he remains ‘troubled by the BBB’s rating system. The BBB lacks the resources to verify much information used to rate, rendering its ratings unreliable and suspect. The BBB cannot rely on the word of businesses about licenses, state laws or other information; objective and independent confirmation is vital to accurate ratings. At the very least, the BBB has an ethical — and perhaps legal — obligation to clearly and prominently inform consumers of the severe and significant limitations of its rating system.”
“I will continue working with the BBB to help assure its rating system is consistent, factual and fair,” he said in a statement.
“The BBB has a long and laudable history of consumer advocacy, and has partnered with my office on many occasions to fight scams. I look forward to continuing our work together in fighting for consumer and business interests.”
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