The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a non-profit entity that is concerned with promoting good business practices and sharing information about business entities with consumers. Several divisions and franchises of the Better Business Bureau operate in different regions of the United States and Canada. These regional outfits belong to the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) which provides information to consumers about business entities that operate in the North American continent. Similar though differently titled organizations exist in other nations including Australia and the United Kingdom.
Forerunners to the Better Business Bureau sprung up in various parts of North America in the early part of the 20th century. These organizations collected information pertaining to business disputes, corporate mismanagement and unethical business practices. In 1970, many of regional these entities united to form the CBBB. Consumers who are thinking of buying goods or services from a particular company can search on the local bureau's online directory for information about these businesses. Records of past complaints and product recalls are made readily available so that consumers can make informed decisions.
Businesses and non-profit groups can register with the bureau. Representatives from the local bureau gather information on these entities, speak with the business owners and review any past consumer complaints. Entities that uphold the ethical standards that the bureau strives to maintain can become accredited members of the Better Business Bureau. Many consumers prefer to deal with businesses that are accredited bureau members and some people tend to avoid working with businesses that are not members of the organization.
Local divisions of the bureau regularly issue consumer alerts that detail ongoing fraud cases involving criminal enterprises that masquerade as legitimate businesses. Additionally, these organizations issue information pamphlets that provide consumers with advice on matters such as financial management, college preparation and retirement planning. Many fraudsters and unethical business people attempt to take advantage of consumers who are making major financial decisions. Therefore, the Better Business Bureau alerts consumers to the kind of red flags that typically accompany scams and fraudulent schemes.
When the bureau receives a consumer complaint, it forwards details of the issue to the business at the center of the dispute. The business is afforded the opportunity to settle the matter or to answer the complaint. If the business fails to satisfactorily resolve dispute it may lose its Better Business Bureau accreditation. Furthermore, details of the unsettled dispute may be posted on the bureau's website. For legal reasons, the bureau neither collects information nor investigates reports pertaining to consumer disputes that have already resulted in court action.