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Complaint against the Better Business Bureau

VIEWS: 95 PAGES: 18

Complaint: PeopleClaim vs The BBB. | Bad business or marketing practices, Refusal to respond or remove bad content, Negligence or failure to exercise due care, Abusive, arbitrary, or uneven application of rating or review processes, Failure to disclose material facts or conflicts of interest, False or misleading advertising or promotion of services, Omission of material facts or circumstances, Conflicts of interest, Failure to notify me before posting negative content, Fabrication of a bogus BBB business profile that falsely and recklessly associated our business with an F rated company.

More Info
									                                                     Claim filed against:
Complaint against:                                   Better Business Bureau
The Better Business Bureau                           BBB
                                                     Des Moines, Iowa, 50309
                                                     United States

                                                     Date filed:
                                                     Apr 04, 2012
                                                     Date Posted:
                                                     Apr 15, 2012



Complaint
Refusal to   Claimant's opinion:
respond or   Date: Thu, Dec 15, 2011 at 8:15 PM Subject: JACI Group To: Laura
             Chavez <laura@dm.bbb.org> Cc: Steve Hutchins
remove bad   steve@thejacigroup.com
content
             Further to your inquiry, Item 1- We follow FTC guidelines in all are
             business practices. Are you implying that we don’t? Have you received
             any complaint from a consumer that we have violated any FTC rules or
             guidelines or do you have any reason to believe that we are in violation?

             Item 2. You can Google search the references. They all were indexed
             by Google and you should be able to find the original references for
             each Publication. If you cannot find them, let me know and I will see if
             we have any reprints or saved copies.

             Item 3. You don’t seem to understand how our system works. Please
             reference the site details or the video and you will understand the
             process better.

             Item 4: this item has been removed. Had you communicated with us
             through this email address or through the correct physical mail address
             on our site and as requested previously, we could have removed this
             sooner. It was a coding error as explained, but you are correct, it should
             not have displayed on our site after we let our membership lapse.
             Thanks for bringing it to our attention. We are adding a notice of
             apology on the site where the BBB reference appeared. There should be
             no other references to BBB membership on any of our sites. Please
             email me should you discover any and we will of course remove them at
             once.

             Item 5. This seems more of an accusation than a request and the tone
doesn’t seem in keeping with BBB standards of professionalism. Yes the
tags appear to be related to a blog post that references the BBB but
which has been delayed pending receipt of permission to quote a well-
known business source on their experience with the BBB .
Is your concern that that it could create confusion with a site visitor
about your trademark and whether we are the BBB? If so, we can
remove the tags until the BBB related post if up. I don’t really see
where the confusion would occur since we make it very clear what we
do and how we differ from the BBB.
In any case let us know what you want us to do and we will try our best
to accommodate you.

Regarding the comp chart; This information was derived from publically
available information about the BBB, and where possible, confirmed
from info on the BBB’s site.
Please detail which items you feel are false and why. If you want to
propose better language, we’d be happy to consider using it instead. We
want to represent your policy and practice as accurately as possible, so
your feedback is important.

 I’d still like to know the nature and reasons for your request as they
don’t appear to be in accordance with any customer complaint through
your office. Were we selected at random for your “Trade Practices and
Advertising Review” or where there other reasons for the Ad Review?
Please respond as requested. Thanks 

Negligence or   Claimant's opinion:
failure to      Negligence and failure to use due care in communicating BBB demands
exercise due    that influence public ratings of targeted businesses
care            According to the BBB’s own literature and ranking system, a key
                component of a business’s BBB rating criteria rests in a business’
                prompt reply to BBB complaints which are often delivered by regular US
                mail.

                Degraded BBB ratings can adversely negatively impact on a business’s
                reputation and result in lost business. Therefore the BBB has a duty to
                exercise extreme care in insuring that businesses receive, and have an
                opportunity to respond to any BBB complaints before any adverse rating
                action is taken by the BBB that could harm the company.
                The BBB was negligent in failing to insure that we had received its
                complaint prior to downgrading our rating and in repeatedly using an
                incorrect address to communicate the complaint.
                Our case is extreme because the BBB also ignored our repeated
                requests to correct the mailing address it uses for JACI and apparently
                continues to send time-sensitive information to an undeliverable
                address with full knowledge that it will not be received by JACI.
                Our correct mailing address was listed on our JACI BBB member
                application and also appears prominently on our website. Given the
                importance it places on timely response, the BBB should use registered
                mail and/or any of the available address checking systems commonly
                used to ensure proper delivery of important communications.
                For example, PeopleClaim uses an address checking service to try to
                ensure that claims only get sent to deliverable addresses before any
                information is published.
                We encourage the BBB to enact a similar protocol. Had it done so, it
                would have confirmed that the address it is using for JACI is listed as
                undeliverable by the US postal service. (see attached).
                 Failure on the BBB’s part to ensure good delivery of complaints isn’t an
                isolated issue.
                The 20/20 report references Brian Kraft, an entrepreneur whose
                business, Entertainment Career Connection (ECC), was downgraded to a
                C rating by the BBB when a complaint was reportedly sent to an
                incorrect address. According to 20/20, ECC’s rating was further
                downgraded to an F, after he complained about the C rating. ECC has
                filed a lawsuit against the BBB for deceptive and illegal practices.

                Address checkers show that multiple BBB business listing addresses are
                similarly incorrect.
                The BBB has in the past successfully communicated with JACI via email
                and its employees can confirm that we have always responded
                promptly. We would like the BBB to explain why it has refused to correct
                our address on its mailings and why employees didn’t contact us by
                email prior to the rating downgrade.
Abusive,           False or misleading statements by the BBB:
arbitrary, or
                   The BBB in its publicly-posted ratings disclosures has made false or
uneven
                   misleading and damaging statements about JACI.
application of
rating or review   These statements remain posted on our BBB Profile in spite of repeated
processes          attempts by JACI to have them corrected –

                   False or misleading BBB statement #1

                   Laura Chavez of the BBB: “JACI Group was contacted on November 4,
                   2011 due to advertising claims made on their website, peopleclaim.com”

                   We received no communication from the BBB in November. The BBB
                   claims to have sent information regarding their adverting review to an
                   address which is different from JACIs official mailing address as stated
                   on both the PeopleClaim.com website and on our original BBB
                   application. (see attached)

                   As a result JACI never received the BBB notice and could not have
                   responded. We initially believed that the BBB was using an old address
                   for JACI, but later learned that they simply were refusing to use the
                   correct address. The BBB also made no attempt to contact us through
                   our publicly listed email address, which the BBB has used as its primary
                   contact with JACI for resolution of customer related issues.

                   The matter of the incorrect mailing address has been communicated to
                   the BBB several times and it is specifically aware that we were not
                   contacted on the dates as claimed in the BBB ratings report. To date,
                   the BBB has bizarrely refused to correct our mailing address or respond
                   to our last 3 requests to do so. (see included correspondence)

                   Consequently, our first knowledge of the BBB’s “advertising review”
                   notice was on December 14th in response to our inquiry about the
                   rating downgrade. (See attached)

                   Failure to properly communicate complaints to targeted businesses prior
                   to adverse ratings actions is a common complaint with the BBB. We
                   address this issue in more detail elsewhere in this complaint. –

                   False or misleading statement by the BBB #2

                   Laura Chavez of BBB: “Specifically, The BBB asked that the company to
                   remove erroneous claims made against the BBB and its dispute
                   resolution process. To date, the company has not responded to our
                   request.”

                   This statement is totally false. JACI responded immediately upon
                   requesting and receiving the mis-mailed BBB notice on December 14th
                   In that response (see full email response from December 15th) we
                   requested clarification on issues raised by the BBB which, in our view,
                   were vague, confused and overreaching. The BBB refused to respond.

                   JACI Response to Laura Chavez of the BBB on 12/15: “Regarding the
comp chart; This information was derived from publicly available
information about the BBB, and where possible, confirmed from info on
the BBB’s site. Please detail which items you feel are false and why. If
you want to propose better language, we’d be happy to consider using it
instead. We want to represent your policy and practice as accurately as
possible, so your feedback is important. I’d still like to know the nature
and reasons for your request as they don’t appear to be in accordance
with any customer complaint through your office. Were we selected at
random for your “Trade Practices and Advertising Review” or where
there other reasons for the Ad Review?” Please respond as requested
Thanks Mark -------------------------------------------------

Contrary to BBB’s assertions, JACI responded to the BBB on 3 separate
occasions but the BBB has failed to provide the requested clarification or
even to explain why they refuse to do so.

Our communications on the matter also went unanswered by the BBB
(See below) ------------------------------------------------------------------
---------

From: Mark Deuitch [mailto:mark@thejacigroup.com] Sent: Monday,
December 19, 2011 2:01 PM To: Laura Chavez Cc: Steve Hutchins
Subject: Waiting on requested info from BBB Per our previous requests,
kindly provide us with the date that JACI’s BBB membership expired.
Also, when possible, pls respond to our other questions and requests for
clarifications about your “advertising review of PeopleClaim. Lastly, pls
confirm that you have added the correct contact info for both JACI and
PeopleClaim into your database so that we can be sure to receive any
additional correspondence from the BBB. Thanks Mark -------------------
------------------------------

On 12/20/11 10:57 AM, "Laura Chavez" <Laura@dm.bbb.org> wrote:
Mark, I am in the process of drafting a response that will answer all
your questions. In the mean time, your report is on update. Thank you
for your patience. Laura Chavez | Operations Department Tel: 515-243-
8137 x303 Toll-Free: 800-222-1600 Fax: 515-243-2227 Email:
laura@dm.bbb.org www.iowa.bbb.org <http://www.iowa.bbb.org/> |
Start With Trust BBB Serving Greater Iowa, Quad Cities and Siouxland
Region 505 5th Ave. Suite 950 Des Moines, IA 50309 --------------------
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Mark Deuitch <mark@thejacigroup.com> Date: Sat, 04 Feb 2012
07:31:11 +0530 To: Laura Chavez <Laura@dm.bbb.org> Conversation:
Waiting on requested info from BBB Subject: Re: Waiting on requested
info from BBB Hi Laura, We are still waiting on the report and the
answers to our questions about your “advertising review” and other
items that you promised in December. What became of it? Also have
you adjusted our contact info so you have our correct mailing address
and contact info so that we can be sure to receive your communications
in a timely manner? Please advise. We are surprised that you haven’t
responded. Mark

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
NOTE: As of this date, more than 3 months from our original request,
there has been no response from the BBB and JACI has never received
the promised “report” from Laura Chavez. Instead the BBB
“unsuspended” and reposted the F rating without explanation or
contact. The BBB claims to place great emphasis on a business’s
response to BBB complaints-- and uses any failure to “respond
promptly” in its negative ratings criteria.

However, it once again seems to apply a double standard in its own
dealings with businesses seeking information about BBB actions or
ratings.

False or misleading statement by the BBB #4

BBB: “The BBB asked the company to provide contact information for
the individuals quoted on their website. To date, the company has not
responded to our request.” The BBB never requested contact
information for individuals quoted on our site.

Furthermore since the BBB acknowledges that PeopleClaim is a
competitor to the BBB, it would be grossly inappropriate to make such a
request due to the BBB’s obvious conflicts of interest. We are happy to
provide details about any customer comments that appear on our site to
real regulatory agencies such as the FTC.

We would also consider directly providing supporting information to the
BBB under the following terms:

1) BBB responds to our questions and concerns about the purpose of
their advertising review, how the information will be used and what
prompted JACI being initially targeted

2) Execution of a non-disclosure agreement covering any sensitive
information regarding our clients or business secrets, and the BBB’s
guarantee that it will refrain from any unauthorized use of confidential
information provided, including for competitive purposes or to further
disparage PeopleClaim on their site.

3) PeopleClaim customers who have submitted comments consent to
communicate with the BBB.

False or misleading statement by the BBB #5

Laura Chavez of BBB: “Some claims have either been removed or
substantiated; however, other claims remain unresolved”

We have made no changes to the PeopleClaim website (apart from
fixing a coding artifact) in response to any BBB request because the
BBB has refused to respond to our repeated requests for clarification of
their issues.

False or misleading statement #6

BBB: “The BBB also requested statistical evidence that supports their
claim of effectively resolving disputes. To date the company has not
responded to our request”

The BBB never requested any statistical evidence. Here is what the BBB
actually stated in their December 14th communication to us:

Laura Chavez of the BBB: Your website states that PeopleClaim helps
people resolve complaints. A search for claims made by Iowa residents
yielded only 11 results: all of which were unanswered by the business.
It also appeared that one can only search for “unresolved claims” What
evidence do you have that supports your claims of resolving disputes?”

In fact, had Ms. Chavez read our site information she would know that

1) we do not list claims by the state of residence of the claiming party,

2) we remove all postings of claims that have been successfully
resolved, so less claims- e.g. “only 11 results in Iowa”, implies
successful resolution, not failure,

3) claims that are unanswered by the business are considered as
unresolved and therefore post publicly on the PeopleClaim site. Ms.
Chavez is correct that there are only 11 such unresolved claims in Iowa.
So, she has answered her own question about the effectiveness of the
PeopleClaim process.

Further support exists in the fact that while over 40,000 people visit
www.PeopleClaim each month to file claims or review claim data, there
have been only 4 BBB complaints and no complaints (to our knowledge)
to any state or local government or regulatory agency about the
PeopleClaim service.

 This is in clear contrast to the BBB’s own history and, we believe
provides proof of the effectiveness of the PeopleClaim process. Also,
contrary to the BBB’s statement that we had not responded to its
request, we responded promptly on Dec 15th, the day after we received
their request. We tried to explain to Ms. Chavez that she misunderstood
the PeopleClaim process and that she should further review the
information on our website.

Email to Laura Chavez from JACI on 12/15/2011: (Re: Item 2). “You
don’t seem to understand how our system works. Please reference the
site details or the video and you will understand the process better.”
Link to the PeopleClaim “How it works” video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOPIgoQm1yc
Failure to           The BBB claims to act as a neutral party in resolving disputes., but in
disclose material    the case of PeopleClaim it is clearly acting in its own interest as the
facts or conflicts   main portion of its claim is about content on our site regarding the BBB
                     as a competitor. In our opinion, the BBB should disclose any potential
of interest          conflicts or bias in reviewing and rating competitor sites such as
                     PeopleClaim.com.

                     In fact, the BBB should refrain from applying any ratings for competitor
                     sites and simply use the “not rated” designations that it uses for certain
                     other businesses while applying a footnote explaining that the profiled
                     business is a competitor.

Omission of          The BBB makes much of a coding artifact which appeared on an
material facts or    infrequently trafficked page of the PeopleClaim site that referenced
circumstances        JACI, PeopleClaim’s parent company, as being a member of the BBB.

                     This reference remained on the site by accident after we let our JACI
                     BBB membership lapse; it was then removed but erroneously reposted
                     when our software engineers uploaded old code containing the
                     reference. The BBB claims that it communicated this issue to us earlier
                     but, as mentioned elsewhere, the BBB refuses to use our correct mailing
                     address. We appreciate the BBB’s need to monitor their business
                     trademark and to ensure that only paying member businesses are
                     allowed to claim BBB membership.

                     We apologized to the BBB for the mistake and offered to post a notice
                     on the same page , informing users that the post was made in error and
                     offering a refund to any user that filed a claim based upon the belief
                     that JACI was a BBB member after the membership had been allowed to
                     lapse. The BBB never responded to our offer and refused to provide the
                     exact date of the membership’s expiry, which was needed for posting
                     the notice.

                     Here is how the BBB represents the issue on their website: “The
                     company has complied with our request to remove the false claim that
                     they are a member of the Better Business Bureau.”

                     Here is our response to the BBB: This item has been removed. Had you
                     communicated with us through this email address or through the correct
                     physical mail address on our site and as requested previously, we could
                     have removed this sooner. It was a coding error as explained, but you
                     are correct, it should not have displayed on our site after we let our
                     membership lapse. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. We are
                     adding a notice of apology on the site where the BBB reference
                     appeared. There should be no other references to BBB membership on
                     any of our sites. Please email me should you discover any and we will of
                     course remove them at once.

                     While we acknowledge our mistake in allowing the notice to persist after
                     our membership expiration, we feel the BBB inaccurately represents the
                     matter on its website by refusing to acknowledge that JACI was once a
                     member of the BBB and that the posting was the result of a coding
                     error. There is a big difference between a business omitting to take
down a secondary reference to the BBB, and one that was never a
member intentionally misusing the BBB trademark to deceive the public
as the BBB’s statement implies.

In fact, the BBB states very clearly in their own “Code of Business
Practices (BBB Accreditation Standards): “An (BBB) accredited business
or organization agrees to: A. Make known all material facts in both
written and verbal representations, remembering that misrepresentation
may result not only from direct statements but by omitting or obscuring
relevant facts.” Clearly, the fact that we were previously a BBB member
and we simply omitted to remove a reference to that membership, is a
relevant fact in the BBB’s statement.

Also, as we have demonstrated in other sections of this claim, highly-
rated, paid-up BBB member businesses have misused references to the
BBB in far more egregious ways, but with no response from the BBB.
We request that the BBB tell the full story about the reference on our
site so that the public can make a fully informed judgment about JACI’s
BBB membership history and any related posts on our website.
Conflicts of        The BBB is acting as both a complaining party and as an "arbitrator" in
interest            their action against, competitor, PeopleClaim. As outlined in this claim,
                    oblivious conflicts of interest exist when the BBB uses its ratings system
                    or "investigative programs" against competitors. The BBB fails to fully
                    disclose these and other conflicts of interest.



Failure to notify   The BBB has never contacted us before posting ratings downgrades.
me before
posting negative
content


Fabrication of a    In March of 2011, we were contacted by a customer who wanted to
bogus BBB           know why we had an F rating with the BBB.
business profile
                    We were surprised to learn about the F rating as no one had ever
that falsely and    contact us from the BBB in Florida about any customer issues.
recklessly
associated our      Still, the BBB had posted our name, phone number, and website URL
business with an    under a profile for Golden Island Group, which was assigned an F rating
                    by the BBB.
F rated
company.            PeopleClaim has no knowledge of, and has never been associated with,
                    Golden Island, and we have never had an office in Florida. The BBB
                    offered no explanation as to why our name and web address showed up
                    on the Golden Island BBB profile and made no apology for the mistake.
                    It did, however, remove the erroneous information after we complained.

                    The following is our email demand for removal of the bogus content to
                    the BBB:

                    To: info@wpbbb.com

                    CC: shorgan@wpbbb.com

                    Dear Mr. White,It has come to our attention that you have erroneously
                    attached our website address and name (as a DBA) to The Golden
                    Island Group. We have no knowledge of the Golden Island Group and
                    have never been associated with it; nor is our company based in Florida.
                    The JACI Group is a Delaware corporation and has been the rightful and
                    exclusive owner of the domain name and URL www.PeopleClaim.com,
                    for at least five years. The name PeopleClaim has been trademarked by
                    the JACI Group.

                    You are welcome to visit our site and check our registered trademark,
                    contact information, etc. for yourself.

                    Please remove our website address and name from your report on the
                    Golden Island Group immediately.I appreciate your help in this matter,
                    and look forward to your prompt response.
                         Sincerely,PeopleClaim.com: The Intelligent Alternative

                         RE: Name: Golden Island Group

                         Phone: (866) 875-7221

                         Fax: (646) 219-4614

                         Address: 8260 NW 14 St., Doral, FL 33126

                         Website: www.peopleclaim.com

                         File Open Date: January 2009

                         Type of Business: Collection Agencies

                         BBB Accreditation: This company is not a BBB Accredited business.

                         Additional DBA Names: Peopleclaim.com

                         Brodie White | President/CEO

                         Tel: 561.842.9278 ext 131Fax:561.721.9212

                         Email:bwhite@wpbbb.com

                         www.bbb.org | BBB of Southeast Florida and the Caribbean4411 Beacon Circle Suite
                         4West Palm Beach, FL 33407

Bad business or
marketing
practices



False or
misleading
advertising or
promotion of
services




My Terms of Settlement
Item                                                                             Due By          Amount

   1. Replace: Immediately remove the negative ratings for JACI and               18 Apr. 2012       -
      PeopleClaim and replace them with a “Not Rated” designation. Add a
      foot note explaining that the BBB does not provide ratings for
      competing organizations
2. Upgrade: Add space for businesses to reply to or rebut BBB actions         18 Apr. 2012     -
   on any businesses BBB profile


3. Apology: We want the BBB to apologise to any businesses that have          18 Apr. 2012
   been harmed by similar bad practices


4. Change of policy: Remove any items that do not involve actual              18 Apr. 2012
   consumer or regulatory agency complaints in the BBB’s criteria for
   rating businesses and specifically on JACI’s BBB profile


5. Information: Provide full details and disclosure regarding the             18 Apr. 2012
   reasons and motivations that prompted the BBB’s “Advertising
   Review” of the PeopleClaim website. Include any instructions that
   were given by anyone within the BBB to investigate, harass or
   otherwise engage PeopleClaim in any BBB review.


6. Information: Fully substantiate your reasons for objecting to our          18 Apr. 2012
   comparison chart between the BBB and PeopleClaim’s dispute
   resolution processes, and provide requested comment on the
   contents of the new chart which was previously forwarded to you


7. Information: Respond to all JACI correspondence that was                   18 Apr. 2012
   previously ignored by the BBB and fully answer our questions about
   1) reasons for our downgraded rating, and 2) your requests for
   information or PeopleClaim customer access.


8.    Take necessary action to remove BBB listings from directories or        18 Apr. 2012
     business listings websites where the BBB’s listing could reasonably be
     mistaken for a government agency and request that disclosure be
     made on any listings or references in government websites that
     makes clear that the BBB is not a government agency


9.    Demand immediate removal of false statements claiming or implying       18 Apr. 2012
     that the BBB is a government agency for all BBB member websites
     and with any marketing partners or government directories, including
     www.business.com and www.USA.Gov.


10. Practice what you preach- apply your own standards to BBB
   actions and policy


11. Physical delivery charges                                                 18 Apr. 2012   $2.99


12. Copy claim to regulators charge                                           18 Apr. 2012   $14.95


13. Include public posting fee                                                18 Apr. 2012   $7.95
      No Response.
      Better Business Bureau BBB did not respond to this claim.




Complaint Grounds

This is a claim made by the JACI Group Inc. and its affiliate website, www.PeopleClaim.com, an
online dispute resolution provider and BBB competitor. The claim is against the BBB for posting
false or misleading statements about JACI on the BBB’s website, and for using its controversial
business ratings and advertising review processes negligently and in bad faith to unjustly
disparage PeopleClaim.

Specifically, our complaint against the BBB includes the following:

1. False accusations and statements reported in the BBB’s profile about JACI and PeopleClaim

2. Continued failure by the BBB to respond to repeated requests for clarification about our BBB
rating and their “Advertising and Review” process

3. Over-reaching and unsupported demands for sensitive information, trade secrets and
confidential customer information

4. Failure to contact or use due care in attempting to contact JACI prior to lowering its BBB
Rating- and, falsely claiming “they received no response from JACI” as justification for the
rating downgrade (we have documented all attempts at correspondence with the BBB in this
claim)

5. Failure to act in good faith and abide by the BBB’s own standards as outlined in its website.

6. Failure to apply its business grading criteria and standards evenly with respect other
businesses, and in particular its own paying members

7. Failure to disclose the limitations of its BBB rating system or the possibility of errors,
conflicts of interest and misinformation in its published business ratings

8. Fabrication of a bogus business profile for PeopleClaim that falsely associated PeopleClaim
with an unrelated business in order, we believe, to justify a lower BBB rating.

9. Failure to issue ratings that truthfully reflect customer satisfaction and response to customer
complaints.

PeopleClaim and the BBB

The BBB considers PeopleClaim.com to be a competitor and has denied PeopleClaim BBB
accreditation on that basis. PeopleClaim offers free and paid online dispute resolution services,
and publishes unedited, primary information about unresolved complaints against businesses,
professionals and others as a free resource for consumers and regulatory agencies. PeopleClaim
also offers a service that allows businesses to challenge and rebut any BBB, Yelp or other
business review or rating site content.

PeopleClaim.com shares the BBB’s goal of helping consumers and others resolve disputes with
businesses and other organizations in a constructive and fair manner. PeopleClaim differs from
the BBB in several important ways. We do not evaluate, rank or in any way attempt to judge
businesses. Instead we give business an opportunity to resolve claims and provide free public
access to actual unresolved claim information, which is posted by complaining parties on the
PeopleClaim website. Another important difference is that we do not rely upon or accept any
payments from the businesses that become, or could become, targets of claims filed on our site
by PeopleClaim users. We believe such practices pose substantial conflicts of interest and can
result in inaccurate or misleading data.

We started PeopleClaim to offer an alternative or complementary dispute resolution channel to
the BBB, small claims court and mediation services. Approximately 10% of PeopleClaim
claimants report having first tried to resolve their disputes through the BBB. before coming to
PeopleClaim for assistance.



Our issues with the BBB

On three separate occasions the BBB has published and used false or misleading information
about PeopleClaim to justify downgrading JACI and/or PeopleClaim’s BBB business ratings.
After complaining to the BBB, some of the misleading information and the negative scores were
removed. However, the BBB has recently again lowered our score for reasons that it refuses to
justify or substantiate, and which are unrelated to any customer complaints or user
dissatisfaction with PeopleClaim or its services. We believe that we have been targeted for
downgrade and repeated harassment by the BBB because we provide a competing service and
possibly because of our refusal to renew our paid membership with the local BBB in 2010.



Background and BBB’s history of problems:

PeopleClaim’s parent, The JACI Group was a member of the BBB in good standing until we
chose to let our membership lapse in 2010. Our decision was based in part on negative reports
about the BBB from PeopleClaim users, and in part on published reports of abuses in the BBB’s
business ratings process that came to light through investigative reports by ABC’s 20/20, the
New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, and in a government action by Connecticut
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (see attached BBB complaint letter from AG Blumenthal):

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/13/your-
money/13haggler.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1329480336-mtPEhPVHTkjOwDVT3IokGg

http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/business-bureau-best-ratings-money-buy/story?id=12123843




These reports document aggressive marketing practice, inconsistent or inadequately supported
rating standards and serious conflicts of interest. The reports also suggest that the BBB at
times has rewarded bad businesses with good ratings if they paid membership fees, and
punished good businesses with bad ratings if they refused to participate in BBB programs. The
BBB has admitted to “mistakes” in their system and agreed to change aspects of its business
model and policy. However, after learning of these practices we determined that our BBB
membership was of no value to us or our customers.

Shortly after discontinuing JACI’s membership, the BBB lowered our business rating to F, its
lowest possible rating. We were puzzled by this action as our customer satisfaction history,
which is fully confirmed by the BBB’s own records, is far better than many BBB member
businesses that enjoy A+ ratings. Specifically, in three years of operation, we have helped
disgruntled consumers with thousands of complaints but only four complaints about our
services have been made through the BBB. All four BBB complaints against PeopleClaim were
either dismissed because the complaining party agreed with our explanation or because they
simply failed to respond after hearing it. We assume, and are happy that, all complaining
parties were fully satisfied once we explained our position and policy.



Current downgrade and the BBB’s failure to respond to PeopleClaim

In its latest action against JACI and PeopleClaim, the BBB has used its arbitrary “advertising
review process,” along with the threat of a ratings downgrade, to try to coerce PeopleClaim to
reveal confidential trade secrets, grant unrestricted access to PeopleClaim’s clients, and alter
information posted about the BBB on the PeopleClaim website. Given the BBB’s history of
mismanagement of conflicts of interest we are justifiably reluctant to provide such information
or access without clarification as to its purpose and assurances from the BBB that our
information would not be misused for competitive purposes. After requesting clarification on the
BBB’s demands, our rating was initially put “in suspension” by the BBB, but subsequently
reposted as an “F” without explanation or further response. The BBB has since refused to
communicate with JACI, and has ignored our 5 most recent requests for information about their
actions.

On its business profile for JACI/PeopleClaim, the BBB lists vague references to “inaccurate
information” on the PeopleClaim site as justification for a ratings downgrade. It seems the
BBB’s main issue relates to a comparison chart which was posted on the PeopleClaim website
listing competitive differences between PeopleClaim and the BBB’s own dispute resolution
processes. The BBB initially claimed that information in the chart was inaccurate and demanded
its removal, but failed to provide any substantiation for their claims, and refused to state
specifically how the information was inaccurate.

The BBB also claims that we didn’t respond to some of their requests. This is completely false.
We have responded promptly to every communication that we have received from the BBB,
however we note that the BBB has refused to update our mailing address information and has
in the past sent requests to an undeliverable mailing address. We are aware of other business
that have been harmed by BBB ratings actions that were prompted by delivery of notice
mistakes on the part of the BBB. As we pointed out to the BBB, all information contained in the
PeopleClaim comparison chart was obtained from public sources and, where possible, was
confirmed through the BBB’s own websites.

The BBB has ignored our offer for them to help edit the information in the comparison chart so
that we could accurately represent their policies and practices. In the absence of any response
from the BBB, we recently updated the comparison chart and provided an advanced copy to the
BBB for comment and revision. Once again however, the BBB refused to comment or respond.
(We have attached all correspondence with the BBB on this matter to this claim)

This refusal to respond is particularly puzzling as the BBB claims to place considerable weight
on a business’s response to BBB complaints, and it frequently dismisses consumer claims
against businesses if the complaining party fails to respond in a timely manner. It seems,
however, that the BBB exempts itself from the need to communicate when pursuing complaints
in its own competitive self-interest. Using the BBB’s own standards, their complaint against us
would have been dismissed (and our rating preserved) for failure to respond, had the
complaining party been anyone other than the BBB.



Conflicts of interest and violation of the BBB’s claim of “neutrality”

Several references on BBB websites claim that the BBB acts only as a neutral party:

For example:

“Your BBB acts as a neutral third party in matters of dispute. As such, BBB's aim is not to "tar
and feather" companies on the basis of one unsatisfied customer, but rather, to promote
communication between the parties and offer the chance to resolve the problem. The emphasis
is not so much on what happened to bring about the complaint in the first place, but more so
on whether the company acts in good faith to try to resolve it”

In the case of the BBB’s action against PeopleClaim, the BBB cannot claim to be acting in a
neutral capacity. Their claim is on behalf of the BBB’s own interests, and they are acting as
both a complainant and judge/rater. It’s also clear that they aren’t promoting or even
participating in communication to resolve their dispute with us—a key standard that they claim
to require in their own accreditation process for member businesses.

As our attached correspondence shows, JACI has acted in good faith to try to resolve the BBB’s
issues, but the BBB has stonewalled our attempts at resolution- possibly in order to maintain its
F profile rating against us for competitive purposes.

It’s also our understanding that the BBB refuses to consider complaints against itself as part of
its business ratings system, and the BBB is not, in fact, a member of the BBB. Presumably this
is because there are obvious conflicts of interest for the BBB to rate itself or act as a “neutral
party” in complaints with its own staff or BBB affiliates. Clearly, similar conflicts of interest exist
between the BBB and BBB competitors like PeopleClaim. Consequently, the BBB should refrain
from rating or attempting to evaluate any competing business - especially where the BBB is
acting as the complaining party as is the case with PeopleClaim.

We have no reservations about responding constructively to any PeopleClaim customer
complaints filed through the BBB, but the BBB has no business engaging in the type of arbitrary
advertising review process that it has disingenuously used to justify an F rating in our case.

Failure to apply ratings criteria consistently or accurately

Finally, while the BBB has targeted PeopleClaim for its critical content about the BBB, a quick
search of the web reveals false, but favorable content about the BBB on web pages of BBB
accredited member sites that enjoy the highest possible BBB ratings.

For example, the following statement appears prominently on A+ rated, BBB accredited
member Business.com’s website:

“Are you looking to get assistance or advice from the Better Business Bureau? The BBB is a
government agency that helps protect businesses and consumers alike”

This is a completely false statement. The BBB is not a government agency and has no
regulatory powers. This is a common misconception by the public which the BBB seems to do
little to correct

It’s unclear if this reference is a BBB sponsored advertisement on Business.com, which in our
opinion would be even worse. Regardless, the BBB rewards Business.com with its highest
rating: A+. A related BBB profile references DexOne aka Business.com, also an accredited
member with an A+ rating in spite of 481 BBB complaints, 125 of which are for advertising and
sales related issues. Dexone was formally R.H. Donnelley Inc., which went bankrupt in 2009.
It’s unclear whether Dexone still owns Business.com, as suggested by the BBB profile, because
yet another A rated company- Resource Nation, also appears to be associated with the
Business.com name. In any event, all the related companies are highly rated, accredited
members of the BBB in spite of the false representation that the BBB is a governmental agency.

Note: We’ve attached a screen shot from the Business.com BBB page since we suspect the
reference will be removed upon the BBB’s receipt of this claim. Here’s the link just in case:
http://www.business.com/general/better-business-bureau)

Additionally, other sites, including taxpayer supported USA.gov list the BBB in conjunction with
government agencies, reinforcing the false idea that the BBB is a government or quasi-
governmental agency. If the BBB was serious about truth in advertising, they would be more
vigilant and take necessary action to insure that their status is clearly and truthfully
represented on their own members’ websites and in directories that reference governmental
organizations.

The disparity between Business.com’s BBB A+ rating and our F rating is also startling,
especially given the fact that accredited members of the BBB are supposedly required to abide
by the “BBB’s “Code of Business Practices and accreditation Standards” , which include the
requirement for accredited members to” tell the truth and honestly represent products and
services” and to “Ensure that any written materials are readily available, clear, accurate and
complete” According to the BBB’s profile for Business.com: “BBB has determined that this
business meets BBB accreditation standards”

We are willing to consider that BBB is simply unaware of Business.com’s false statement about
the BBB’s ‘government agency” status, but what does that say about the reliability of the BBB’s
business rating system?

At a minimum, it supports A.G. Blumenthal’s statement and shows that little has changed since
the BBB admitted to the mistakes in their system.

A.G. Blumenthal:

“I remain concerned that the term “rating” inaccurately describes the BBB grading system.
There are clear, practical and logistical limits to the BBB’s ability to accurately and fairly
implement a full ratings system for businesses. Extensive resources are necessary to verify the
self-reported information that the BBB receives from businesses. This information includes
compliance with state and federal licensing and registration requirements, outstanding lawsuits,
time in business and financial stability. My understanding is that the BBB does not have the
resources to verify all self-reported business information. The BBB must disclose in a clear and
prominent manner this and any other factual limitations on its rating system. Failure to do so
may be misleading to consumers and adversely impact those good businesses who are not
rated by the BBB — a result that is bad for both”.

If the BBB’s rating system cannot provide a reliable, fair and consistent standard for evaluating
businesses, what good is it and why does it pretend that potentially misleading information is
helpful to consumers? If the BBB is incapable of evaluating all businesses thoroughly, reliably,
and fairly it shouldn’t be in the business of business evaluation. Nor should it publish ratings
that cannot be relied upon by the public. At a minimum the BBB should fully disclose the
serious limitations and short-comings of its rating system on each business profile and exempt
businesses where the BBB is acting with bias, conflicts of interest or in its own self-interest.

Conclusion:

We believe the BBB does some good work and at times can help with consumer disputes
against businesses, but quality, management and ethics seem to vary widely from branch to
branch and its ratings system offers little guidance to consumers seeking to know which
businesses to do business with and which to avoid. PeopleClaim, and other businesses that are
targeted by BBB actions should be judged solely by the quality of their service and the
satisfaction of their customers- not by the BBB’s subjective and seemingly arbitrary letter
grading criteria or by the BBB’s self-interest.



We have attempted to resolve this matter directly with the BBB. However, as documented in
this claim, they have refused to respond to our many requests for clarification on factors it
claims influenced a downgrading of our BBB rating. We invite comment from other businesses
or consumers who have been similarly victimized by the BBB.*




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