Consumer Watch: Give business a chance to make things right

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Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 12:00 am

No business wants to hear, “I’m turning you in to the Better Business Bureau,” but at least it’s aware that its customer is upset. Hopefully, before a consumer ever threatens to file an official complaint, he or she has contacted the company first, providing the alleged offender with an opportunity to resolve the problem.

Most people are aware of the BBB’s longstanding role as a neutral third party that can help consumers and businesses resolve marketplace disputes. It’s been a core service of our organization for 100 years and each year our regional BBB logs in around 20,000 complaints from consumers who are dissatisfied with a product or a service.

But, at the risk of writing myself out of a job, the BBB’s involvement could often be avoided. All too often, when we notify business operators that a complaint has been filed against them, they say they didn’t even know the customer was displeased and, in many cases, the business immediately responds and promptly resolves the issue.

There are surely situations in which the experience a consumer had with a business was so problematic that he or she wants no further direct interaction, and in these cases the BBB is well-positioned to provide assistance. But I do want to encourage consumers to do all they can to afford a good business the opportunity to make things right first.

Our region is blessed with an abundance of honest, ethical businesses that want only happy and satisfied customers. When consumers bring reasonable complaints to the attention of most companies in our area, concerns usually get resolved without any third-party intervention.

But occasionally, two parties are simply unable to come to an agreement, and that’s when the BBB is a resource. We offer dispute resolution services that are free to the consumers and the business community. BBB Accredited businesses have already agreed to participate in dispute resolution and binding arbitration, if it should come to that.

While there are surely some complaints that are so problematic or complex that they need to be litigated, many can be settled through the BBB’s free process, which helps consumers and businesses avoid costly legal services they all face when complaints end up in the court system.

So, let’s say you have a legitimate beef and you’ve tried to resolve the problem with the company, but you feel you need our help. As long as it meets the following criteria, the BBB will forward it to the business for a response. Every complaint must:

>> Include the complainant’s name and postal address.

>> Include the business’s name and provide sufficient information to determine the business’s location.

>> Be from an actual customer of the business complained about.

>> Relate to a marketplace issue.

>> Allege a problem experienced with the services or products that the company agreed to provide.

>> Avoid the use of abusive language.

Also, BBB complaints can’t already be in litigation. If it’s already been resolved by a previous court action, arbitration, or settlement between the parties, we can’t take it to the business like it’s a new issue. We also cannot allow complaints to be changed once submitted.

Be aware that we have a new policy regarding our website, and details of consumer complaints and the companies’ responses to them will sometimes be accessible to the public via our business reviews, so remember to omit personal or sensitive information from the description of the complaint.

Consumers are sometimes disappointed to learn that the BBB is not a consumer advocacy organization. Our role is to be a staunchly neutral third party that views the information submitted by both parties objectively. Our goal is to advocate for a resolution that is fair to all parties,

If a company can’t make it right and you’re still dissatisfied, then I encourage you to contact us. We have an experienced staff standing by to assist you. You can file complaints by visiting www.bbb.org or by calling the BBB at 800-649-6814.

Our goal is to close all complaints within 30 days, but some are more complicated than others and we want to be fair to businesses by providing them with a reasonable amount of time to respond.

It’s too bad any customer ever has to file a complaint, but if we can help to work out a solution, we are eager to assist you.

Jim Hegarty is president of the Better Business Bureau representing Nebraska and southwest Iowa. To contact him, email jhegarty@bbbnebraska.org or call 402-898-8520.

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