Unfair business

When a business uses unfair tactics to gain a competitive edge over other businesses in the same industry, it hurts both the consumers and the legitimate businesses. The Better Business Bureau emerged from the need to promote business practices that discouraged unfair competition in business because of deceptive advertising.

From 1705 when advertising formally began in the US, there were no guidelines or regulations to govern advertising. That was until 1880 when the media acted on what it felt was rampant deceptive advertising. It acknowledged its responsibility in protecting the interest of the public and stopped the publishing of deceptive advertisements.

Fraudulent businesses?

The fraudulent businesses then resorted to using mail through post to continue with their practices.

As the magnitude of the problem became bigger, it prompted Congress to give the Post Office Department the power act against such businesses.

Advertising Clubs

The modern Better Business Bureaus grew from the Advertising Clubs established in the early 1900 to monitor advertising and promote ethical advertising practices.

With the formation of the first BBB in 1912 and the rapid growth of the BBBs, their roles grew to include monitoring business performance and educating the consumers on smart shopping.

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128 BBBs

In total, there are about 128 BBBs located in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. Generally, top business leaders, the government and the public have confidence in the BBB for the role it plays in promoting the highest standards of advertising and selling.

The Better Business Bureau is a not-for-profit organization. Its financing comes from the fees that BBB accredited businesses and other professional organizations in communities pay. Firms and businesses in the US and Canada become accredited by meeting the accreditation standards and voluntarily agreeing to self-regulate and to follow stringent principles of business ethics.

Before accrediting any business, the BBB performs thorough background checks. It also provides consumers with unbiased reports on businesses' (both accredited and unaccredited) background information and also does business reviews.

The Better Business Bureau is committed to protecting both businesses and consumers by holding businesses accountable to upholding high standards of honesty in advertising. Once a business gets the accreditation, the BBB continues to monitor it for adherence to the standards of the accreditation.

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As a trusted source of information for consumers and business accreditation, the Better Business Bureau provides credible information on businesses' performance including customer complaints, violations in advertising, legal actions against a businesses and law enforcement.

The BBB also scrutinizes charities and non-profit organizations that fundraise or solicit donations from the public. It can also intervene in disputes by engaging the parties in conciliation, mediation and arbitration. Consumers benefit from the educational information that the BBB provides to guide purchasing decisions and habits.

Through its Code of Advertising, the BBB guides businesses on the best practices in advertising. This promotes honesty and accurate advertising and the right selling practices. In addition, the BBB helps to fight fraud by alerting the law enforcers and consumers about frauds and scams in the marketplace. Guidelines that are more recent include the Code of Online Business Practices that covers the issues arising from e-commerce.