Pay to Play Is the Order of the Day
I used the BBB on a few occasions to resolve complaints, and as a result I got refunds of almost $1000 I was due. My thoughts at the time were "wow, the BBB is great." The two businesses involved were *not* "BBB Accredited". A representative at one company told me, as she was issuing my refund, "I hate it when they call." If only this were true for accredited businesses.
What I subsequently learned, by researching the BBB ratings of several companies, is that companies that pay "dues" and thus become "accredited", have earned an A- rating just for paying! A few people have tested this - one didn't even supply a valid address for his alleged "business", and the following day he had an A-. Time after time, when I review a business that is accredited, I see a rating of A to A+, even if it has a slew of complaints against it. I've never seen an accredited business with a rating below A-, but in contrast I have seen many non accredited ones with B through F ratings, even those who have only a few complaints can have a C. New businesses that haven't earned a rating yet that aren't accredited are given a "No rating" rating, but the new ones that are accredited are bestowed with an A-.
Connecticut Attorney General Blumenthal threatened to sue the BBB in 2010 after conducting an investigation regarding what he called "Pay to Play" in connection with this practice. Only 10 days later it was announced he had reached "an agreement", but the practice appears to continue today. The BBB did make a few changes such as not awarding points in its ratings system just because dues were paid.
At my auto repair facility, which consists of only the owner and two employees, I noted the BBB plaque on the wall with surprise. The owner told me that he is called incessantly by BBB telemarketers if he doesn't pay for membership in the BBB, and this is the *only* reason he pays "a few hundred dollars" a year. At a large company, the dues are probably several thousand dollars a year.
There is a bunch of mumbo jumbo on the BBB's mission statement about trust between companies and consumers, not being biased, etc. After reading numerous complaints about a few accredited companies, and seeing they have A or A+ ratings despite numerous complaints in their BBB file, I have no faith whatsoever in this rating system and I feel it is in fact biased. This is a sad state of affairs, and my gut feeling (not based on hidden camera interviews or a scientific poll) is there is much more rehabilitation to be done to make the ratings meaningful. As it stands, when I see "AAA accredited" it is a warning to treat a business with an eye of suspicion, which is extremely ironic.