It is getting very difficult to know who consumers can trust anymore. The Better Business Bureau has, for the last century, been held up as the one bastion of integrity consumers can turn to for the real scoop on businesses. Now, however, the Southern California chapter has been stripped of its BBB status for its alleged “pay to play” scheme, offering higher ratings for paid members.
Largest Better Business Bureau chapter ousted
BBB of the Southland, the nation’s largest Better Business Bureau chapter, served the greater Los Angeles area. However, in the wake of an ABC investigation, it has been expelled from the national organization. It no longer can use the BBB brand, nor use any of the services provided by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
“We hold businesses to high standards for honesty, transparency, fairness and integrity, and we hold ourselves to those same standards.” said Carrie A. Hurt, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “Over a period of more than two years, BBB of the Southland failed to resolve concerns about compliance with several standards required of BBBs, including standards relating to accreditation, reporting on businesses, and handling complaints.”
According to an ABC investigation, in 2010 an anonymous blogger submitted a listing for the terrorist group Hamas. After paying a $425 membership fee, the phony listing was given an “A-” rating. Likewise, celebrity Chef Wolfgang Puck has claimed that he was informed he needed to pay before his rating could be upgraded to “A.”
Puck said, “If you don’t pay, it’s very difficult to get an ‘A.'”
The Los Angeles area will, for a time, have no BBB representative in the area. However, Hurt says, residents are always free to use the services provided on the Better Business Bureau’s website until it is able to find another organization in Southern California willing and fit to take up the cause of consumer advocacy.
BBB of the Southland fires back
While BBB of the Southland admits the phony Hamas incident was a mistake, it tried to reverse the blame, saying it “quit” the BBB before it was “fired.”
Jerry Dominguez, the chairman of the board of directors of the Southern California chapter, sent a letter to the Arlington, Va.-based group, dated march 8, saying it had resigned before the expulsion over the “absurd” terms imposed on its executive selection process.
Meanwhile, BBB of the Southland will continue business as usual under the name Business Consumer Alliance, and without the services or banner of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Consumer, be warned and be informed.