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Just how reliable is the Better Business Bureau? If a business participates in the Better Business Bureau "BBB Care" program, does that mean you can feel more confident that they're not going to rip you off? If they have a "satisfactory" rating, does that make it more likely that you will find your business relationship "satisfactory"?

Too often, the answer is no.

Businesses can become and remain members of the Better Business Bureau in spite of their use of deceptive practices, providing they respond to complaints and appear to abide by their contractual obligations.

This is not to say that the BBB isn't useful for consumers. There is a certain amount of leverage that occurs because of the possibility of having a bad report, and maintaining the basic informaton about businesses can be very useful.

If you "read between the lines" of a BBB report, you can occasionally learn the true nature of a questionable business.

So treat the information from a BBB report as nothing more than another data point in your investigation of a business. It's possible that an "unsatisfactory" rating is not particularly justified, and a "satisfactory" rating should not ease your mind if there are other reasons to be concerned.

Listed below is a small sampling of companies that were rated "satisfactory" by the BBB, but which provide us with good reason to believe they are unsatisfactory.


College Advantage

College Advantage has been a member of one or more BBB chapters since at least 12/2002. It had a "satisfactory" rating at all BBB chapters checked as of 7/2003 and was a participant in the "BBB care" program at 3 chapters.

In spite of the BBB status of College Advntage, the FTC charged with deceptive practices in 5/2003. See FTC action: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2003/07/fyi0341.htm for the details.


North American Clearinghouse

As reported at http://www.labbb.org/scripts/cgiip.exe/WService=wsbroker1/C%3A/Inetpub/wwwroot/SouthlandReport/default.htm?hCompID=13022249&hAKAID=1&hAddrID=1 this company, in business since 1995, is in the business of "asking for $500.00 and consumer would win $73,000.00." They are rated "satisfactory".

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