The BBB and online reliability

The BBB and online reliability

By By Dennis Horton

By Dennis Horton

Manager Public Affairs

Better Business Bureau – Regional Office

Every week we receive dozens of calls from consumers who realize too late that they should have taken the time to research an online company before proceeding to buy a new computer, apply for a credit card or loan, or order valuable free merchandise (at a small handling fee). They knew nothing about the company’s reputation and location, advertising claims, customer satisfaction policies, privacy notices or complaint history. They then found themselves on the losing end of a bad deal. Other times, consumers have been savvy enough to gather such information but found the process to be frustrating, time-consuming, and cumbersome.

The Better Business Bureau can help. We offer the BBBOnLine Reliability seal that attests to a website’s trustworthiness. If you are visiting a website that displays the seal, all you need do is “click” on it, and you can get an instant report from the BBB on that company’s reliability.

Businesses that have agreed to BBB membership standards can request a review of their website to determine their eligibility to participate in the BBBOnLine Reliability program. If the BBB identifies the company and its website as one that adheres to ethical online advertising and selling practices, the website is granted permission to display the online seal that signifies to potential customers that it has met BBB standards for e-commerce.

The Bureau uses several key questions to determine whether a business’s website qualifies to use the seal, and they are the same ones you can use if no seal is visible: l Is information truthful and accurate? Are there claims made that cannot be substantiated, “get-rich-quick” schemes, miracle cures, or unbelievable prices?

l Is it easy to contact the company? Are there a street address or P.O. box, telephone and fax number, and the name of a contact person?

l Are there privacy and security statements? Is there an easy-to-find and understand privacy policy and security statement?

l Are terms of sale clearly disclosed? Are the terms of the sale clearly stated, including product availability/shipping information, prices and customer costs, return and refund policies, and warranties and guarantees?

l Does the site promise customer satisfaction? Will they ensure their customers are satisfied by answering questions and offering to resolve complaints and disputes in a timely and responsive manner? Will they agree to third-party dispute resolution?

The BBBOnLine Reliability seal program, is a voluntary, self-regulating initiative that protects both consumers and legitimate online businesses.

As always, before you purchase or donate, check it out with the Better Business Bureau. You can save yourself time, money and grief.

For information on member and non-member businesses, contact the BBB at 815-963-2222. For information on joining the BBB, call 815-490-9283. You can also visit our website at

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