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Consumers taken by BBB rating

For many American consumers, The Better Business Bureau is the foremost authority on who we should and should not do business with. It has been a long time belief that the BBB had the consumer's best interest at heart when accrediting certain companies with its coveted A+ rating. However, a recent CNNMoney story may give some consumers a reason to shy away from BBB advice.

CNNMoney began investigating the BBB after concerns that many fraudulent or untrustworthy businesses were awarded its gold standard A+ rating. In a sample of 100 companies with an A- rating or better, many were found to have either been ruled a scam business and shut down or had legal actions taken against them by various government regulators. Some of these BBB accredited companies have been required to pay penalties or even had CEO's facing jail time for fraudulent business practices. While most consumers would assume these types of issues would wipe out a BBB rating of support, it was found that in most cases, the companies rating remained intact.

So why then were potentially dangerous and fraudulent companies allowed to keep a BBB accredited rating while other respected, household name companies like Starbucks and Microsoft rated so low? According to CNNMoney, it may have something to do with membership fees. Many of the 100 sampled companies paid thousands in membership fees to the BBB, while large Fortune 500 companies did not. This makes the suggestion that a good BBB rating has more to do with money paid to the BBB than it does with consumers being happy with the company's service.

It is not certain how this information will affect the BBB or consumers. However, as CNNMoney's investigation revealed, some BBB accredited companies are responsible for harm, and in some cases death of consumers. If consumers have chosen to do business with these companies based on information obtained by the BBB, it is reasonable to consider that the BBB may be held party responsible.

For individuals facing a business dispute or those that have experienced a loss due to the deceptive practices of a business, it may be time to speak to a trusted attorney. With their knowledge and experience, your rights can be protected.

Source: CNNMoney, "Slammed by the government, A-rated by the Better Business Bureau," Blake Ellis & Melanie Hicken, Sept. 30, 2105

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