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How to Maintain a BBB A+ Rating and Become a BBB Accredited Business

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What is the Better Business Bureau?

The Better Business Bureau promotes a marketplace that is ethical, honest, and rooted in dispute resolution. It’s a nonprofit, and it operates in contrast to the online platforms offering unvetted consumer business reviews, instead encouraging an environment where American and Canadian consumers and businesses can trust each other.

And they’ve been doing it for over 100 years. The BBB has cultivated marketplace trust since its founding in 1912.

The BBB grading scale

The BBB assigns businesses a rating on a scale of 100. Just like school report grades, a score in the 90-plus range is an A (from 97 to 100 is considered an A+, 94-96.99 is an A, 90 to 93.99 an A-), and one on the lowest end (anything below 60) is an F.

Throughout most of BBB’s history until 2008, it used a simple rating system that deemed businesses “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Today’s rating is calculated using a proprietary formula. It takes into account a blend of objective information about the business and verified reports of specific examples of the business’ behavior. The resulting number represents BBB’s prediction of how a business is likely to interact with customers.

To calculate the rating, BBB considers the following information in its files:

1. Issues relating to complaints. This includes:

  • Complaint volume (weighted by complaint age)
  • Unanswered complaints
  • Unresolved complaints
  • Delayed complaint resolution
  • Failure to address complaint pattern

2. The type of business can receive a lower score if BBB determines it raises marketplace concerns or is believed to violate the law

3. Time in business. If the start date can’t be proven, BBB will consider the start of business to be the date of its first record of the business

4. Transparent business practices, including:

  • Business must supply information about ownership and products and services offered
  • It must make readily available its true address
  • 5. Failure to honor mediation/arbitration
  • 6. Competency licensing and Government action (per action), which includes:
  • Business must have required licensing
  • When there are pending or finalized government actions against business, relating to marketplace activities, BBB considers how it was finalized and amount of resolution or penalties (weighted by age of action)
  • Advertising review (per incident) and BBB trademark infringement
  • Violations in this category include misuse of BBB logo or name
  • Another potential deduction area is if there are questions about advertising claims

BBB rating: How to maintain an A rating

Of the above grading factors, only the following can add points to your rating:

  1. Complaint volume (can add up to 15 points)
  2. Unanswered complaints (adds up to 40 points)
  3. Unresolved complaints (adds up to 30 points)
  4. Complaint resolution delayed (adds up to 5 points)
  5. Time in business (adds up to 10 points)

The rest of the factors can only subtract from your total if you fail to comply. So the best way to boost your rating is to work to improve on these point-earners, 4 out of 5 of which relate to complaints.

Some methods to consider:

  • You can conduct businesses in a conscientious manner to avoid complaints.
  • If you do get a complaint through BBB, you have an initial 14 days to respond. Answer during this time window.(If you give no response, you will get a second request. The complaint then typically gets closed after 30 days.)
  • To resolve a complaint, first attempt to find a solution with the customer. If that doesn’t work, take advantage of the resolution specialists offered by BBB for this purpose.
  • As for the time period that you’ve been in business, once you’ve supplied proof of start date, there isn’t much a new business can do about that category other than wait it out while striving to embody the BBB Standards for Trust.

The Standards for Trust are the elements of creating trust in a business, and the list is the backbone of the BBB Code of Business:

  1. Build trust
  2. Advertise honestly
  3. Tell the truth
  4. Be transparent
  5. Honor your word
  6. Be responsive
  7. Safeguard privacy
  8. Embody integrity

Top 6 factors affecting your BBB score

BBB provides a chart of point values on this page.

1. Issues with complaints

  • Unanswered complaints can deduct up to 40 points from your score
  • Unresolved complaints can deduct up to 30 points from your score
  • Failure to address complaint patterns can deduct up to 31 points from your score

2. Type of business: a business that BBB determines may be illegal can deduct up to 41 points from your score

3. Failure to honor mediation/arbitration can deduct up to 41 points from your score

4. Competency licensing: failure to comply can deduct up to 41 points from your score

5. Advertising review of claims made in advertising can deduct up to 41 points from your score per incident

6. Trademark infringement: misusing BBB logo or name can deduct up to 41 points from your score

How to become a BBB accredited business

BBB accreditation is a separate process from a business having a BBB rating. It is an optional designation that does not signify endorsement of the company’s products or services by BBB, rather, it means that the business meets BBB’s accreditation standards of honest and ethical business, and that the business makes good-faith efforts to resolve disputes.

For businesses that opt to apply, the process is straightforward. To qualify, the business must have a B or better rating. The business must meet, and continue to abide by, the following eight-point BBB Code of Business Practices, which is based upon on the eight BBB Standards for Trust.

Build trust.

The company agrees to establish a positive track record by doing the following:

  • Being operational in any area served by the BBB for at least the past 6 months (unless the owner(s) have operated a similar business that would qualify for BBB accreditation)
  • Be fully licensed as required by the local jurisdiction and supply proof upon application and when requested thereafter
  • Have no government action indicating a failure to support BBB principles (in the case of government action, BBB will determine the nature of the violation, whether management caused or condoned it, and consider what actions were taken to resolve any issues that led to the government action)
  • Have no unsatisfactory rating and have at least a B rating at the accrediting BBB and the BBB where the company is headquartered (if different)
  • In its relationship with BBB, the business meets all standards in this Code of Business Practices, abides by BBB’s methods of voluntary self-regulation within the businesses’ industry, respects any settlements, agreements or decisions reached in part of BBB dispute resolution, and completed the application plus pays any money owed to BBB in a timely manner

Advertise honestly.

The company agrees to honor the established standards of advertising and selling by taking the following measures:

  • Obeying all local, federal and state/provincial advertising laws
  • Following the BBB Code of Advertising, the business can supply proof of all advertising and selling claims and correct any advertising and selling practices when BBB recommends
  • Follow BBB industry codes for advertising, as applicable
  • Comply with BBB self-regulatory programs for advertising dispute resolution
  • Use BBB logos and name following BBB policy
  • Do not create false impressions of sponsorship, endorsement, popularity, business size by misusing logos, pictures, testimonials, or other methods

Tell the truth.

Make an honest representation of products and services, and be sure to disclose all material terms, by doing the following:

  • Misrepresentation comes not just from misleading statements but also omitting or obscuring relevant facts, so be clear about all material facts in both written and spoken communications
  • Ensure the accuracy, completeness, clarity and availability of all written materials

Be transparent.

Clearly communicate the nature, location, and ownership of the business as well as all policies and procedures that bear on a customer’s purchase decision, in the following ways:

  • When requested, make available all information needed to determine compliance with BBB standards, including but not limited to name, address and contact information, names and background of founders, business and banking references, licensing or other accreditation, and a full explanation of the nature of the business
  • Disclose the following to customers: how to contact the business directly, terms of any written contract, any guarantees or warranties associated with a product, any limitations or restrictions imposed on an offer, such as a maximum number of sale goods per customer, the refund/return policy, any recurring commitments the customer may opt to enter and when the billing will occur, and a transaction’s total cost including tax, shipping and handling and any other charges
  • When selling products or services on the Internet, or other electronic means, the business agrees to provide the required labeling information, explain the nature and terms of the shipping, and any delays or stock shortages, if known, provide the chance to review and confirm the transaction before completing the sale, and provide a summary of the purchase on a receipt

Honor promises.

The organization must honor all written and verbal agreements and representations in the following ways:

  • Abide by any signed contracts and agreements
  • Correct any mistakes as soon as possible made in order to fulfill representations

Be responsive.

The business will honor all marketplace disputes in good faith in a timely and professional manner by taking these steps:

  • Direct resolution and notifying BBB or supplying BBB a response that BBB deems professional, addresses all issues the complainant raised, is supported by evidence and documentation, and explains why the request will not be granted
  • Resolve all disputes with a good faith effort including mediation, if BBB determines it necessary. If initial efforts to resolve the dispute fail, other methods such as arbitration may be recommended. BBB may weigh organization’s willingness to participate in these methods when determining compliance with BBB standards.
  • Honor any settlements or agreements reached in dispute resolution
  • Comply with BBB efforts to address underlying issues leading to customer complaints

Safeguard privacy.

The organization agrees to protect customer data from mishandling and fraud, to gather only the information needed and to abide by customer’s wishes for the use of their data in the following ways:

  • Respecting privacy in e-commerce transactions by being transparent about what data is gathered, with whom it is shared, how to correct it, how it is secured, how policy changes are communicated and what to do if concerned that personal data has been misused
  • Securing sensitive data online (such as credit card numbers and bank account numbers) by transmitting it safely in compliance with industry standards for both protection and disposal of sensitive data online and offline
  • Abide by customer preferences for contact by telephone, fax and email, and in the event of any failure, to resolve the situation

Embody integrity.

The business will take on all professional interactions, transactions and communications with integrity by avoiding any activities that reflect negatively on, or “otherwise adversely affect” the image of BBB or its accredited businesses.

The business applies through their Local BBB, or if there’s more than one location, the one local to the primary location, starting with filling out a form found here. Once submitted, BBB begins researching its files and public records to determine if the business meets the Code of Business Practices.

Businesses applying pay an annual fee for accreditation review, monitoring, and to support the work of BBB. The fee varies by location and size of the company, but as an example, for St. Louis-area small businesses of 1-99 employees, the range is $480 – $975. BBB national spokesperson Katherine Hutt says that accreditation rates and procedures are set by the local BBBs, so the process may differ slightly from one BBB to another. She recommends asking the local BBB for the local procedures.

Applications are also voted on by a Board of Directors made up of local Accredited Business leaders.


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