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The Better Business Bureau's Consumer Protection Duties

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  • 0:01 What Is the Better…
  • 0:52 Brief History
  • 1:54 How It Can Help Consumers
  • 2:46 What the BBB Cannot Do
  • 3:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is one of the most well-known organizations in the United States. However, how many of us really know what it does? In this lesson, we take a look at the history and duties of the BBB.

What Is the Better Business Bureau?

After three hours of waiting on the phone, you finally get someone on the line to talk about your horrible contract. It seems that the company just keeps changing the terms whenever it wants, wanting more and more money from you for worse and worse service. Despite talking to three different supervisors, you're getting nowhere fast. In a fit of rage, you hang up the phone, proclaiming that you're going to call the Better Business Bureau. But wait, are you even sure if the Better Business Bureau can help you?

As it turns out, you may have your hopes dashed about just what the Better Business Bureau (BBB) can do. It is not a government agency, so any dreams you have about seeing your most hated company receiving serious punishment are gone. Instead, it is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping guarantee trust in the marketplace.

Brief History

So, why would a non-profit organization like the Better Business Bureau even exist? To understand that, we've got to go back to the early 1900s, just as the Better Business Bureau was being founded. During this time, there were plenty of schemes around to sell people just about anything you could think of. We may joke about snake oil salesmen today, but during the early 1900s, they were a real problem. There were people essentially selling poison as a cure-all for all sorts of diseases and disorders. Needless to say, plenty of people were getting ripped off.

To counter this, a group of businesses banded together and agreed to hold themselves to a higher standard of service and quality. As a result, the National Vigilance Committee was formed in 1912, in Boston, which was a precursor to the Better Business Bureau. At the same time, other advertising clubs, in places as varied as New York and Minneapolis, sprung up to address the same concerns. By 1921, a federal organization had been formed to support the various local groups.

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