BBB HISTORY VIOLATION OF THE 6TH AMENDMENT ? OR EXTORTION TO BUSINESSES?
According to the Better Business Bureau’s History and Traditions web page they boast, “The Ancient Problem of Truth. The major concern of Better Business Bureaus from their inception until today has been an ongoing problem of ethics …” further quoting Cicero, “All things should be laid bare so that the buyer may not be in any way ignorant of anything the seller knows.”
The basis of this organization was designed by Samuel C. Dobbs of the Coca Cola Company to create a “self-policing force known as “Vigilance Committees” … later to become known as the Better Business Bureaus.” The “Vigilance Committees” were organized in 1909 to establish “truth in advertising” of products. With or without an overseeing entity, this has been an ongoing effort for businesses that not only believe but perform with honesty and integrity … the same ethics implied above, which ultimately help educate and safeguard consumers.
Two years after the inception of the local “Vigilance Committees” John Irving Romer, a long time publisher of Printer’s Ink, an advertising magazine, voiced his opinion this organization be expanded throughout the country. According to the article posted in the Better Business Bureau’s History and Traditions web page, in 1912, after this group examined and investigated “nearly 100 cases” of what they must have felt to be questionable advertising, copy was changed, the public was informed and thereby educated, their efforts were duplicated and their goal accomplished as the Better Business Bureau became the accepted standard as go-to information center for consumers in regard to companies in which to confidently do business with.
The Better Business Bureau’s History and Traditions article reveals “… the fact that review and monitoring of local and national advertising is still a vital function of both member Bureaus and the Council of Better Business Bureaus.” This article quotes: “Also as valid as the day it was written is the portion of National Vigilance Commission report dated May 25, 1915: ‘There is a threefold responsibility for eliminating objectionable advertising. First, the advertiser; second, the writer of the advertising (especially the agencies); and third, the medium which disseminates the advertising. There must be cooperation between the three. The media are rapidly realizing that it is to their own selfish interest to have public confidence in their advertising pages.’
According to the Better Business Bureau’s History and Traditions article, in 1940 Muriel Tsvetkoff, manager of the San Francisco BBB touted “No government agency will ever seriously curtail our work … The reason: consumers will come to the bureau to complain, or for information in preference to consulting government or prosecuting agencies.”
The article goes on to say, “This continues to be true today, despite the proliferating number of government agencies. In a long article appearing in a BBB publication called ‘Bureau Management’ in April, 1940, written by C. Victor Werne: ‘The businessmen of today who have failed to be impressed with the expansion of the consumer movement are scheduled for a rude and very unpleasant awakening, and unless they are made to realize the ultimate consequences of their lethargic attitude they may suddenly learn that their business has slipped away from them. The consumer movement, if conducted along educational lines alone, can be of inestimable value to business and to the general public. When it goes further than education, it becomes a menace to the American system of free and private enterprise and initiative and has the capacity to nullify our representative form of government. …”
One might consider if we need an organization such as what was proposed in the early days when the organization now known as the BBB was conceived. Looking at historical data, it is painfully obvious that we do need some type of “policing” in advertising and delivery of products and services as stated and promised by said advertising. It is no great secret we as humans are weak. All too many times our reach for the almighty dollar is just too empowering for. Either they are unwilling or simply possess no ethics so they fail to resist the temptation of greed. So the pat answer is, yes we do need guidance if not “policing” so all consumers can feel confident “businesses” will provide exactly what they promote and promise.
However, somewhere along the line, the Better Business Bureau went from being “Vigilance Committees” to become actual “VIGILANTES”! As the word connotes, they have taken matters, if not law, into their own hands and are dealing vigilantly justice as they see fit and deem necessary. It would seem the BBB’s mindset as the self-proclaimed ultimate, official stamp of approval agency on all business, has forgotten the warning issued in Mr. Werne’s message. The BBB has long since taken on the position of the instantaneous judge and jury, maliciously defaming businesses on the world-wide net without the consideration of an impartial investigation of consumer complaints prior to posting the complaints thereby mandating public condemnation.
In credit to Mr. Werne, there is no doubt, consumer education, if factual, is of immense importance. However, education based on erroneous information is not only a danger to society, but destructive at its basic core. One must remember, society includes not only the consumer, but the targeted business through which the consumer receives products and/or services as well as the business owner and all his/her employees! When wielding the sword of righteousness, one should be cognizant of collateral damage.
In this day and age of consumer awareness, most people realize they can make a claim against any business at any time for any product or service which they feel falls short of what they paid for. It is understandable that some consumer complaints are valid and some businesses are guilty of not delivering the services or goods for which the consumer paid their hard earned money for. However, there are many complaints which have been issued based on emotions, misunderstanding and even malice contempt for the individual(s) with whom they have conducted business with. Most consumers see the burning torch emblem of the BBB as the same symbol held by the Statue of Liberty offering safe refuge and justice for all. Too many accused businesses are later found innocent of any wrongdoing, but the BBB torch has already scorch, if not burned in effigy, the business in which the consumer finds fault however valid … or not. This hasty action by the BBB leads one to think their torch emblem is the blazing light on the path of a witch hunt.
The BBB business model being utilized today is far from the romanticized version from the Better Business Bureau’s History and Traditions article. In fact it is an exact reversal of what we, the people of the United States of America, were granted as inalienable rights by virtue of our laws. The 6th Amendment in the Bill of Rights ensures the “accused” of a fair and just trial in front of an impartial jury ultimately leading to a non-biased and just verdict. These rights as established by the 6th Amendment are equal for all citizens of the United States of America which, by the way, include the businesses, the owners and employees serving the consumer.
US law declares an accused to be “presumed innocent until proven guilty” which further entails the burden of proof is on the accuser rather than the one being accused. It is up to the prosecution to prove the accused is “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt”. Of course these rights are in relation to a criminal prosecution but certainly can apply to all other areas of our life which may or may not end up in the court system. “Presumed innocent until proven guilty” and “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” does not apply to the condemn-first – refute-later mentality of the Better Business Bureau, a/k/a the BBB.
A defendant, the accused, has a right to be informed of all details in relation to any allegation made against them. This information is to be given over to the accused prior to being placed on trial for the alleged offense. A defendant has the right to confront and cross-examine his/her accuser to dispel hearsay, miscommunication, misunderstanding and false accusations prior to any court condemning the defendant by verdict or court decision. Not so with the BBB. Any person can lay a claim of wrongdoing against any business by simply filling out a form on the BBB website. Prior to the business being granted the opportunity to review, investigate or refute the claims against them, the BBB posts the complaint so the business is guilty first and foremost which apparently is the BBB’s true mantra.
Not only is the complaint immediately posted for the world to see, there is no review panel to determine the validity of the claim … that is until after it has been posted and the business given thirty days in which to respond to the accusation. The exception to this policy lies with those who have “ ” as they are granted a grace period prior to any complaint being public posted, which may or may not ever been seen publicly for an “accredited business” with the BBB. Bias and partiality are quite obviously the code by which the BBB operates their business model.
Not only is this swift and immediate injustice it is also a 3-year to life-long condemnation for a business, even if the accusation is proved to be a false claim or in any measure erroneous mis-information. The BBB practice of maintains this posted complaint for a period of three years serves only to condemn the business regardless of guilt or innocence. This stigma is deadly as all consumers are exposed to potentially false and misleading information for thirty-six months … or eternity on the web … in this age of need to know before purchase mindset. Does anyone else have a problem with this practice?
The general public seems to be under the illusion the Better Business Bureau is a righteous organization which protects the consumer and promotes upstanding businesses in a fair and impartial manner. What most people, consumers, fail to understand is businesses are made to buy their ratings with the BBB through their infamous accreditation process. Businesses accredited by the BBB appear to be highly regarded with prejudice by the BBB.
As noted in a lawsuit brought by a California law firm, The Brookstone Law Firm, it quoted the Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s criticism of “the BBB’s letter-grade rating system: as “potentially harmful and misleading to consumers following an extensive investigation.” Brookstone reported “Blumenthal stated: “I find no reasonable basis for typing rating points to a membership fee – in essence, creating what could be viewed as a “pay to play” system, rather than a transparent and equitable ‘rating’ system.” One should be wary if not suspicious of organizations charging a membership fee for little or no services just for the right of “belonging”.
The BBB has recently taken unwarranted measures against unsuspecting businesses without notice to those targeted by the so called “BBB guidance committees”. As a business, once again, the BBB’s guilty regardless of innocence agenda has cost companies thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars in lost revenue due to the dark BBB cloud shadowing industry after industry, business after business in expeditious fashion. With all the appearance of self-enrichment, this “not-for-profit, self-proclaimed consumer watch-dog organization continues with its slanderous agenda.
Now the BBB in their self-serving, arbitrary fashion has chosen to dismiss the established B+, A, and A+ “earned“ ratings derived from a company’s exemplary performance to consumers. This disparity is liken to the credit reporting agencies replacing your excellent credit rating with “No Credit History Found” which is worse than a bad credit rating. One might think this can’t be true. One might even question how such a drastic measure is possible. The BBB has proven once more what a biased and greed driven organization it truly is for companies who have not succumbed to the capricious BBB guidelines. Their accreditation process to acquire an A+ rating system is no more than enforced extortion creating a different kind of “false advertising” which is how the BBB got started in the first place. It seems the BBB has eagerly taken the reins of accusations and condemnation without validation bandwagon prevalent in today’s society. A company’s refusal to participate in the BBB’s “pay to play” program are portrayed as undesirable and untrustworthy companies in the eyes of the consumer.
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