I don’t know who or what persuaded CNN to set its sights on the Better Business Bureau, but we should be glad it did. Its first revelation, which I knew about, was how the non-profit BBB is funded by the same businesses it purports to rank. Depending on the size of a business, the BBB demands membership fees ranging from hundreds of dollars to more than $10,000 a year. Members can also pay for plaques announcing their accreditation, BBB seals of approval for their company’s websites, and ads. This is not just a conflict of interest, but a classic one, as well as a system that creates an appearance of impropriety.
Joseph Ridout, a spokesperson for watchdog group Consumer Action, agreed that this structure, where the BBB is “funded by the dues-paying businesses and not the consumers,” presents a “serious conflict of interest.” The BBB, however,told CNN that its membership dues have nothing to do with the ratings companies receive. Of course! And members of Congress don’t tend to vote the way their biggest donors want. Stop being so cynical! Continue reading