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How to File a Complaint with the Better Business Bureau (and Alternatives)

Camila Lopez - How to File a Complaint Against a Company - November 22, 2023

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Contents

    Have a dispute with a business? One way of resolving your dispute with the business is to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The Better Business Bureau (also known as the BBB) serves as an intermediary between businesses and consumers.

    In this article, learn about:

    • The types of complaints the BBB accepts.

    • When it is worth filing a complaint with the BBB.

    • How to submit a BBB complaint.

    • What to expect once you submit your complaint.

    • Alternatives to the BBB: send the business a demand letter.

    • Alternatives to the BBB: take the business to small claims court.

    • Alternatives to the BBB: file a complaint with the government agency that regulates the business.

    Step 1- Determine if the BBB will accept your complaint.

    For the BBB to accept your complaint, the BBB requires the following:

    • The business must be in the US.

    • Your name, address, and email. 

    • The business’s name and address (or sufficient information to determine the business’s location).

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

    • You had a relationship with the business you are filing a complaint about (for example, you bought a good or service from the business). 

    • The problem with the business must have happened in the last 12 months.

    • The business didn't do what they agreed to do, for example, deliver a good or service.

    • A lawsuit has not been filed at the time you file a complaint with the BBB. 

    • No abusive language is allowed in the complaint. 

    Normally the BBB will not accept the following types of disputes:

    • Disputes between employers and employees (for example, disputes over unpaid wages or late wages).

    • Disputes involving discrimination

    • Disputes that are currently filed in court

    • Disputes against an individual

    • Disputes against the government

    Common types of complaints submitted to the BBB:

    • Used and new car sales

    • Disputes with phone companies (bills, overcharges, returns)

    • Disputes against any business for their product or service

    • Deceptive advertising

    • Concerns with privacy policy or practices

    • Disputes against a charity  

    If the BBB doesn't accept your type of complaint, review alternatives to BBB complaints below.

    Step 2- Determine if it is Worth Filing a BBB Complaint

    • If the business has responded to BBB complaints in the past, it's likely worth filing a complaint with the BBB.

    • If the business has not responded to BBB complaints in the past, you may be wasting your time as the business does not care about its online reputation.

    Learn more about whether it's worth filing a BBB complaint.

    Reasons why some businesses respond to BBB complaints:

    • If the business is Accredited with the BBB and they don't respond to a BBB complaint, their accreditation may be revoked and the complaint becomes part of their BBB profile.

    • If the business is not Accredited with the BBB, the complaint will become part of their BBB profile. 

    • BBB reviews provide other consumers with confidence when buying from a business. Businesses do not want negative BBB complaints as it will affect consumer perception.

    Step 3: Submit Your Complaint to the BBB

    1. Click here to go to the Better Business Bureau website.

    2. Review the BBB criteria (also listed above), then scroll to the bottom of the page and click the button “Start Your  Complaint.

    3. Provide the information for the following 6 categories:

    Type of complaint 

    • Vehicle (select this option for disputes involving used and new car sales)

    • Cell Phone or Wireless Carrier (select this option for disputes with phone companies (bills, overcharges, returns))

    • Business's Product or Service (select this option for disputes against any business for their product or service that doesn't fall under the vehicle or cell phone category)

    • Business's Advertising (select this option for disputes involving deceptive advertising, etc.)

    • Business's privacy policy or practices (select this option for disputes involving concerns with privacy policy or practices).

    • Charity (select this option for disputes against a charity).

    Business Information

    • Under Step 2, type the business name in the search.

    • If you know the city and state where the business is located, then enter the city and state in the address box. Otherwise, leave it blank and press search.

    • A list of business names will come up. You may see a different business name than the one you typed. Try clicking on "view BBB review." You will be taken to a different page. Look under the "Business Details" section and see if the business name you typed is there as the business may have an alternative name.

    • Once you confirm that it is the correct business profile, go back to the other tab, click "select."

    Type in your information for the following sections: Your Information, Your Complaint (Make sure to not include personally identifiable information in the public areas as they will be published online), Additional Details

    Step 4: Learn About What to Expect Once you Submit your Complaint to the BBB

    • 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 notified that they received no response). 

    • Complaints are usually closed within 30 business days.

    Step 5: Alternatives to the BBB- Demand Letter

    A demand letter is a formal letter to a company describing the problem and how you would like the problem to be resolved.

    We have a free tool powered by AI that helps you write a demand letter to a business. Check out our demand letter tool.

    Here is a video on how our demand letter tool works:

    Step 6: Alternatives to the BBB- Small Claims Court

    • What is small claims court? Small claims court is a type of civil court that allows individuals to sue without the need for a lawyer or the formal process regular court cases. Each state has different a different limit for how much you can sue for in small claims court, but generally is between $2,500- $25,000. Review our guide to small claims court limits in all 50 states.

    • What are small claims court fees? Court fees can range anywhere from $0-$120 and are paid when you file a lawsuit. These fees vary from state to state.

    • What types of lawsuits can be filed in small claims? Many types of lawsuits can be filed in small claims court. The most common include (1) contracts (2) failure to deliver something you purchased (3) disputes over bills (4) disputes over repairs, etc.

    • Do I need a lawyer to go to court? No, in fact, some states do not allow lawyers to represent you at the initial small claims hearing.

    Learn more in our 50-state guide to small claims court.

    Step 7: Alternatives to the BBB- File a Complaint with a Government Agency

    Depending on the type of business you are suing, they may be regulated by a federal or state government agency. These agencies are responsible for investigating consumer complaints.

    Below, we have linked several of our articles that go over how to file a complaint against a company in each of the following industries: 

    Airlines

    Banks 

    Car Dealership

    Contractors

    Dog Breeders

    Employers 

    Home Warranty

    Insurance 

    Landlords and Apartment Complexes

    Mechanics 

    Moving Company

    If a state does not have a government entity that regulates an industry, you can file a complaint against the company with the state attorney general. Learn more in our 50-State Guide to Attorney General Complaints. 

    Author

    Camila Lopez

    Chief Legal Architect & Co-Founder @ People Clerk. Camila holds a law degree and is a certified mediator. Her passion is breaking down complicated legal processes so that people without an attorney can get justice.

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