Internet rating sites move in on Better Business Bureau

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TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Shoppers of course don't want to be ripped off. And they've relied on the Better Business Bureau to rate everything from gas stations to bars and restaurants. But the organization's reputation has taken a few hits lately.

Marketplace's David Gura reports.


David Gura: Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal says the Better Business Bureau's ratings are a problem.

Richard Blumenthal: They may well be deceptive, even misleading, but definitely unhelpful to consumers and at the same time unfair to businesses.

He accuses the association of pay-for-play, giving higher ratings to dues-paying members.

Alison Southwick is a bureau spokeswoman.

Alison Southwick: Accredited businesses received four extra points when we figured out their grade.

Four points on a 90-point scale. That's enough to move a business up a tick, from say, an A minus to an A. Now, Southwick says the bureau is scrapping those extra points.

Southwick: We don't want any sort of hint or even suggestion that the Better Business Bureau is offering a pay-for-play system.

The non-profit is also trying to address other problems. Los Angeles business owners are outraged that their branch president makes more money than the head of the national association.

Kit Yarrow teaches consumer psychology at Golden Gate University. She says shoppers have new tools, like Yelp and Angie's List.

Kit Yarrow: You can really find out anything about a business's reputation with a quick Google search or a Twitter search today.

So how would she rate Better Business Bureau?

Yarrow: It's their job to police businesses, and they need to score themselves an "F."

In Washington, I'm David Gura for Marketplace.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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