BBB celebrates 100 years
The Better Business Bureau is a 100 years old this year, but it remains as vigilant in the Internet age as it was in the horse-and-buggy age.
Despite some changes, the group's mission remains the same — it's a tool for businesses to regulate themselves, said CEO Dana Badgerow, CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota in a recent interview.
The BBB was started by a group of businesses frustrated with misleading advertisements, and it's still funded by its member businesses today.
"Businesses support us because they believe in self-governance," Badgerow said.
Even though information travels much faster these days through the internet, monitoring advertisements remains a big part of what BBB does, Badgerow said.
In addition, the BBB has evolved into a complaint handling organization, taking 24,000 complaints last year in Minnesota and North Dakota, she said.
"We also do a tremendous amount of consumer outreach and education," Badgerow said. "Our biggest resource for consumers is our database, which has information on 60,000 companies."
Companies get a grade form A to F, and consumers can access them online or call the BBB. "We want consumers to come to us before they sign contracts," she said.
BBB also does consumer outreach and education through training events. That includes programs to help seniors avoid scams and another to help military members and their families avoid scams.
BBB gets no government money; it's funded by 6,500 BBB-accredited businesses. These businesses apply for accreditation, and if they meet qualifications they're admitted and pay an annual fee. That allows them to use the BBB logo.
The biggest factor in grading companies is consumer complaints — the BBB confirms them and asks the companies to respond. How they respond affects their letter grade — if they fail to respond or to resolve the complaint, their grade is lower.
The 100th anniversary, which officially happens Oct. 17, is being celebrated with plenty of events, including a luncheon in Rochester next week. Details about the centennial are available at http://www.bbb.org/100-year/.
One of the BBB's challenge is spreading awareness among the younger generation.
"We want consumers to know we are here, we are free and we will handle complaints. We issue consumer tips all the time," Badgerow said. "If consumers are aware we're here and they access us, it's the best news possible."