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When Should You File a Better Business Bureau Complaint

Dirck Kloosterman - Suing a Business - September 1, 2023

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    Consumers dealing with various issues against a business may not know what course of action to take. In this article, we discuss when, if, and how consumers can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (“BBB”)

    Short answer: Consumers should file a complaint with the BBB when they have had a problem with the business, and attempts to communicate with the business to solve the dispute have been unsuccessful. 

    What To Do Before Filing a BBB Complaint 

    Communicating Directly With the Business 

    Contact the business you have a dispute with and ask to speak to their customer service representative or management to attempt to resolve the issue. This way, you may be able to resolve the problem directly with the business without having to take further formal action. 

    Send a Demand Letter 

    A demand letter is a letter you can send to a business outlining a set of requests you would like the business to fulfill. The main reason you should consider sending a demand letter is that you may be able to resolve your dispute without having to go to court. 

    Here are some other reasons to consider sending a demand letter: 

    • A demand letter signals to the other party that you are serious about the dispute and willing to take action to resolve the problem. 

    • The judge in your case may ask you at your small claims hearing if you sent the other party a demand letter. By sending a written demand letter, there is a record of your attempt to settle that you can demonstrate to the judge.

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a demand letter? Check out our demand letter tool.

    What Types of Complaints Does the BBB Accept? 

    If you tried to reach out directly to the business and sent a demand letter but still haven’t been able to resolve your dispute, it may be time to file a complaint with the BBB. However, before filing your complaint, determine whether the BBB accepts the type of complaint you have. 

    The BBB accepts many kinds of complaints, with the most common types of complaints submitted being:

    • Used and new car sales. 

    • Disputes with phone companies. 

    • Disputes against any business for their product or service. 

    • Deceptive advertising. 

    • Concerns with privacy policy or practices.

    For the BBB to accept your complaint, the following is required: 

    • Your name and either (1) your postal address OR (2) your email address and postal code. 

    • The business’s name and contact information. The BBB does not accept anonymous complaints. 

    • You need assistance from the BBB to solve your problem with the business. 

    • You and the business you are filing a complaint about had a “marketplace relationship.” Learn more about what is and is not considered a marketplace relationship.

    • Your complaint relates to an issue with the business that happened in the past 12 months

    • Your complaint alleges an issue experienced with the services or products the business provided or agreed to provide. 

    • You haven’t filed any legal action in regard to the complaint, and the complaint has not been resolved through legal action (for example, through a small claims court decision). 

    • Your complaint does not include serious threats or abusive language.  

    What Power Does the BBB Have? 

    The BBB is a nonprofit organization with no judicial or enforcement power. The goal of the BBB is to promote transparency between businesses and consumers by providing information and resources to consumers to help them make informed decisions. The BBB also serves as a mediator in resolving disputes between businesses and consumers. 

    The BBB does not have the authority to force a business to resolve consumer complaints, meaning a business can ignore a BBB complaint. However, businesses respond to BBB complaints for the following reasons: 

    • If accredited with the BBB and they don’t respond, their accreditation may be revoked, and the complaint becomes part of their profile. 

    • If not accredited, the complaint will become part of their BBB profile. 

    • Negative BBB reviews can hurt a business's reputation.

    Although the BBB can be incredibly useful for consumers, consumers should consider the following factors when filing a BBB complaint: 

    • The BBB cannot force a company to take action. Despite the common misconception, the BBB is not a government agency and has no judicial or enforcement power. 

    • The BBB does not handle all types of complaints. For example, the BBB does not handle disputes between employers and employees, disputes currently filed in court, and disputes against individuals. For a full list of the types of complaints the BBB will not handle, click on the link here.  

    • You may waste some time and effort. Even after filing a complaint with the BBB, there is no guarantee that your claim will be resolved. You may have wasted your time and effort. However, considering the ease and speed of filing complaints, the time and effort used are not significant. Learn more about whether it is worth filing a complaint with the BBB.  

    What Will the BBB Actually Do About Your Complaint?

    Once you file your complaint to the BBB, generally, the process goes as follows: 

    • The BBB will forward your complaint to the business within 2 business days. 

    • The business will be asked to respond within 14 days, and if a response is not received, a second request will be made. 

    • You will be notified of the business’s response when the BBB receives it (or of the business’s failure to respond). Please note, that complaints are usually closed within 30 business days.  

    What Happens if Filing a BBB Complaint Doesn’t Work? 

    Consider Filing a Complaint With a Government Agency  

    State Attorney Generals are responsible for enforcing consumer protection laws in their states. If you have a complaint with a business because of an unjust practice or deception, then your state attorney general is a good resource. 

    • Please note, that the filing process is different depending on which state you are filing in. 

    • However, for the most part, filing a complaint with an Attorney General’s Office can be as easy as completing a complaint form online or calling a complaint hotline.

    Your state may also have a consumer protection agency that handles consumer complaints against businesses. 

    Consider Suing in Small Claims Court 

    Small Claims court is often called the “People’s Court” because of its informal procedures, user-friendly processes, and affordable nature. Small claims courts handle a variety of issues related to disputes against businesses.

    Here are some of the most common small claims lawsuits filed against businesses:

    • A business won't give you a refund.

    • A business fails to provide products and services you paid for. 

    • A business provides faulty products or unsatisfactory services. 

    • A business engaged in deceptive practices or false advertising. 

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a demand letter? Check out our demand letter tool.


    Dirck Kloosterman

    Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Passionate about breaking down court processes in simple, easy-to-understand ways.

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