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Better Business Bureau: A For-Profit Extortion Group

These words may seem harsh, but the truth hurts. For years, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has disguised itself as an altruistic, government-sanctioned agency, existing to protect the consumer. They claim to police businesses by providing a forum for consumers to report complaints and a rating system for the member businesses.

In reality, the BBB does not police anyone. They actually extort money from businesses by setting up a system that implies that businesses that are not members are less credible and trustworthy.  The BBB consists of local offices that are independently governed by their own boards of directors but are “monitored” nationally by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

The majority of their income is derived from annual membership fees, paid by the businesses they report on. As a business grows, the extortion money increases because the BBB’s accreditation costs are determined by the size of the business. These costs range from several hundred to several thousand dollars a year.

Some might argue that the accreditation fees are used to support the activities of the BBB. It might also be plausible to say that the larger the company, the more resources that are required to do what the BBB does. Well, perhaps, but not when you consider the actual rating system that the BBB uses. After all, the only way a company can earn an A+ rating is to be a member and pay them.

For example, a business that has been in existence for twenty years and has never acted unethically and always resolved all customer complaints responsibly is unable to receive an A+ rating if they do not pay the extortion money to the BBB. Clearly, it is a pay-to-play situation with the BBB.

Given consumers’ limited understanding of the BBB, the consumer will assume that the company with the A+ rating is better than the one with a lesser rating or no rating. The truth is that is the BBB’s rating system is based on how much money you pay them.

It could also be possible that as this business continues to grow, they determine that the $2,000 membership fee is not a good way to spend their money.

Once again, the consumer assumes that all good businesses will be BBB members and there must be something wrong with a large entity that is not associated with the BBB. So to recap, if you pay the BBB their annual extortion fees, your business is protected and possibly rated A+. If you do not wish to submit to the BBB’s extortion tactics, your business is penalized.

The BBB of course sees no reason to correct the public’s perception of the situation. Why would they? After all, they are in the business to make money. If their scam were uncovered, they would have no credibility and consumers would cease to turn to them for information.

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