Is The Better Business Bureau Worthless for Contractors?

Every now and again, we have a client contact us because one of their customers made a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, and they need it cleared up.  It's a big dispute, they explain to us, and they don't want a negative mark with the BBB. A complaint with the Better Business Bureau is a strange predicament.  To avoid a negative mark with the BBB, all a contractor is really required to do is respond to the complaint.    That's right, just respond.   It doesn't matter how right or wrong you or the customer is, if the BBB gets a complaint and a response, they shut the book. Another problem exists with the BBB's dispute resolution program, which binds business and consumers with cryptic contract language that - when read completely - usually doesn't bind anyone at all.   The language is so sloppy that I once had a contractor client stuck having to go through the motions (and expense) of a BBB arbitration, only to get an award that was unenforceable. All in all, in the age of Yelp! and other online reviewing companies, the BBB has become a bit of a laughing stock.   This article from the Atlantic Wire demonstrates this point literally, as the BBB was caught giving positive reviews to a neo-Nazi group and to Hamas! The disintegration of the BBB is something for contractors to keep in mind, as it seems the construction industry is still subjected to BBB complaints and heart-ache from time to time.
Scott Wolfe About the Author: Scott Wolfe
Scott Wolfe, Jr. obtained his J.D. degree from Loyola University of New Orleans, and his B.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. In 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, Scott was recognized as a Leader in Law by CityBusiness Magazine. The son and grandson of general contractors, Scott is a construction litigator in the Pacific Northwest, and the founding member of the bi-coastal law firm, Wolfe Law Group. Scott is also the founder and CEO of Express Lien, Inc., a legal document preparation service for contractors. In 2008, City Business Magazine recognized Scott as one of its Innovators of the Year for the Express Lien concept. As an entrepreneur himself, Scott has a strong background in business and commercial transactions and laws. He focuses his practice on the legal issues facing the construction industry, and has represented clients in multi-million dollar construction disputes in litigation and alternative dispute resolution proceedings. Scott is a LEED AP.

2 comments on “Is The Better Business Bureau Worthless for Contractors?”

  • Good points about the BBB. I too have encountered a number of clients that are concerned that a customer has filed a complaint with the BBB. In New York, each county also has an office of Consumer Affairs. This is another big problem area for contractors as complaints are often filed by angry home owners and, more often than not, the Consumer Affairs investigator will tend to lean towards the home owner even if the contractor is able to ultimately prevail through litigation. I think the problem with BBB is that people put more weight behind the BBB rating than they should. I would assume that most communities have an office that is similar to NY’s Consumer Affairs office that can take complaints and has some actual investigative authority. If given the choice beween reporting to the BBB or the local Consumer Affairs office I would go with Consumer Affairs.

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