While most people are familiar with the 106-year-old Better Business Bureau, not everyone understands what it does and does not do. The frequency with which BBB receives calls and emails about issues outside of its jurisdiction indicates that a bit of clarification might be helpful. You can save yourself some time and improve your marketplace experience by brushing up on these BBB basics.

A is for Advancing marketplace trust

BBB’s mission is to give consumers a marketplace with high business standards so they can have confidence in their transactions. Consumer and business education is encouraged and supported toward this end – mutual trust. Substandard marketplace behavior gets called out, spotlighted and hopefully addressed.

B is for Business reviews

By visiting bbb.org, consumers can find reviews of hundreds of area businesses, based on the experiences of their customers. Reviews are categorized by “positive,” “neutral” and “negative.”

You can also read about complaints that may have been filed against a business. Details of a customer’s complaint will be given and the response from the business will be given as well. You will also find a rating for the business. Ratings vary between A+ and F.

Listings will also tell whether the specific business is BBB accredited. They are not under any obligation to seek accreditation and some businesses may not be accredited simply because they haven’t sought to be. Accreditation means they have agreed to abide by BBB’s accreditation standards. These include using sound advertising, selling and customer service practices. The business has a commitment to make a good faith effort to resolve consumer complaints. A fee is paid by the business for accreditation review and monitoring, and for the support of BBB services to the public.

C is for Common misconceptions

Often consumers believe the BBB is a government agency. It is not. It receives no funding from the federal or state governments. BBB sees its role as being an advocate for consumers and for ethical businesses, and a third-party mediator in disputes between customers and companies.

It’s important for consumers to know what sort of complaints the BBB does not handle. (Frequently requests are made for the BBB to intervene in these categories, a request which is always denied.) Here is a list of complaints that cannot be handled by the BBB:

• Purchases made over a year ago.

• Private landlord/tenant issues.

• Employee/business disputes.

• Discrimination and civil rights claims.

• Price dissatisfaction.

• Allegations of criminal acts.

• Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

• Claims that have already been tried in court or presently under litigation.

• Business-to-business complaints for collection purposes.

• Buyer’s remorse.

• Sought-after apologies.

In some of the above cases there may be government agencies under who’s jurisdiction the complaint would fall. An Internet query may tell you what agency to call. You may also want to call the Kansas Attorney General 1-888-428-8436 or the Sedgwick County District Attorney at 316-660-3600 for help on who might handle your complaint.

There are many other aspects to the work that the Better Business Bureau does towards advancing marketplace trust. The above “ABCs” are only an introduction to the many ways consumers and ethical businesses benefit from the BBB. If you further questions or concerns, contact your Better Business Bureau at (800) 856-2417, or visit our website at bbb.org.