For over a century, the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) has helped people find businesses, brands, and charities that they can trust. That’s a big idea with a lot of moving parts. To be effective, the CBBB has become an umbrella organization that includes local independent Better Business Bureaus (BBB) and national partner programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation.
The Local BBBs
Often, consumers with complaints will turn to the independent local BBBs with their concerns about a company. It’s important for direct response marketers to understand this process. Complaints received affect businesses in multiple ways. Complaints are public and are shared with appropriate government agencies including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and State Attorneys General. High complaint volume or non-response from businesses in addressing customer concerns can be a red flag for the regulators.
The system wide complaint system also grades a company relative to its peers and the expectations of the BBB. If you’re curious, check your company’s grade here.
To improve your score, you must resolve any outstanding complaints. Further, it’s a good idea to engage your local BBB to ensure they understand your business and know who to contact when problems arise.
National Programs and Services
The CBBBs national programs and services are equally critical for direct response marketers to understand. They include the National Advertising Division (NAD), Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program, Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, Children’s Confection Advertising Initiative (CCAI), BBB EU Privacy Shield, and BBB AUTO Line.
The CBBB national programs and services also include the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP). This industry program is a long term partnership between Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) and the CBBB. The program was established in 2004 to enhance consumer confidence in direct response advertising. The program provides a quick and effective mechanism for resolving inquiries regarding the truthfulness and accuracy of claims in direct response advertising. With over 403 total cases closed, it is often recognized by the Federal Trade Commission as an example of a well-designed industry self-regulation program. This long-term credibility with the government allowed the program to soon expand to an ERSP Review Program for Telemarketing and Seminar Review. The expansion allowed ERSP to include lead-generation companies and the review of telemarketing scripts to its self-regulatory portfolio.
A Winning Partnership: ERA & CBBB
Since the inception of ERSP in 2004, I have had the opportunity and pleasure of working with the CBBB and many of its stakeholders. This ongoing partnership has clearly been a success benefiting industry participants and our industry’s customers alike. Together, we share the belief that a safe and vibrant marketplace is critical to ensure public trust in business.
About the Author
Bill McClellan serves as ERA's Vice President of Government Affairs. Prior to joining the association, Bill worked as a lobbyist at the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association, covering the state legislature and Georgia's congressional delegation. Before working for the GADA, Bill managed political campaigns at both the congressional and state constitutional levels.