VIEWS: 95 PAGES: 18 CATEGORY: Small Claims POSTED ON: 4/26/2012
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.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org> Cc: Steve Hutchins remove bad email@example.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:firstname.lastname@example.org] 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: email@example.com 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org> 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: email@example.com CC: firstname.lastname@example.org 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:email@example.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.* Dear reader, can you help? How would you resolve this claim? Click here to view full claim or add a comment
Pages to are hidden for
"Complaint against the Better Business Bureau"Please download to view full document