Are Kentucky Lawyers Being Defamed by BBB?
The BBB in Kentucky and other states are alleged to be defaming lawyers and law firms who represent debtors in foreclosure and debt adjustment actions. These actions may result in civil claims being fled against the BBB and their officers for defamation.
This debate has been a hot issue in California, as the BBB seeks to interfere with law firms seeking to help homeowners with foreclosure or debt adjustment problems with their creditors.
In Kentucky the BBB is rating lawyers negatively if the lawyer helps clients deal with their creditors. This policy of the BBB appears to defame any lawyer who would participate in a legal foreclosure action. Is the BBB in Kentucky risking retaliatory civil action for “defamation” ?
This type of published criticism of lawyers may subject the BBB to tort claims:
“  Corporate Plaintiffs Corporations and other business entities may be defamation plaintiffs where the communication tends to cast aspersions on their business character, such as trustworthiness, or deters third parties from dealing with them.” http://www.lexisnexis.com/lawschool/study/outlines/html/torts/torts21.htm
Defamation From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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This article is about the malicious statement. For the 2009 film, see Defamation (film).
“Libel” and “Slander” redirect here. For other uses, see Libel (disambiguation) and Slander (disambiguation).
“Vilification” and “Calumny” redirect here. For the hate crime, see racial vilification. For the Catholic sin, see detraction.
Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, traducement, slander (for transitory statements), and libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation a negative or inferior image. This can be also any disparaging statement made by one person about another, which is communicated or published, whether true or false, depending on legal state. In common law it is usually a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed (the claimant).
In common law jurisdictions, slander refers to a malicious, false,[not specific enough to verify] and defamatory spoken statement or report, while libel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images. Most jurisdictions allow legal actions, civil and/or criminal, to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism. Related to defamation is public disclosure of private facts, which arises where one person reveals information that is not of public concern, and the release of which would offend a reasonable person. “Unlike [with] libel, truth is not a defense for invasion of privacy.”[not verified in body]
False light laws are “intended primarily to protect the plaintiff’s mental or emotional well-being.” If a publication of information is false, then a tort of defamation might have occurred. If that communication is not technically false but is still misleading, then a tort of false light might have occurred.
In some civil law jurisdictions, defamation is dealt with as a crime rather than a civil wrong (termed a public-law delict in civil-law systems). The United Nations Commission on Human Rights ruled in 2012 that the criminalization of libel violates Freedom of expression and is inconsistent with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
A person who harms another’s reputation may be referred to as a “famacide”, “defamer”, or “slanderer”. The Latin phrase famosus libellus means a libelous writing
The BBB is a business and they charge a fee to businesses in order to prevent the business from receiving a negative rating. In other words if you don’t pay their fee and dance to their tune, then you may be subjected to published defamation for representing a client in a debt adjustment matter.
It is unclear why the BBB disfavors lawyers and law firms who help consumers. Perhaps they will explain why they oppose legal representation of clients who have issues with their creditors.
See San Diego Article:
BBB has determined that San Diego County Bar Association meets BBB accreditation standards, which include a commitment to make a good faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints. BBB Accredited Businesses pay a fee for accreditation review/monitoring and for support of BBB services to the public.
BBB accreditation does not mean that the business’ products or services have been evaluated or endorsed by BBB, or that BBB has made a determination as to the business’ product quality or competency in performing services.
Apply for BBB Accreditation
Thank you for your interest in becoming a BBB Accredited Business. Accreditation in BBB is by invitation to companies that, at a minimum, have been in business for at least one year, have demonstrated sound business practices, and meet our accreditation standards.
Benefits For Your Company
Increase trust – Consumers wonder who to trust, help them establish trust in your business by showing your BBB Accreditation. This helps your business by increasing conversion of leads to customers. Can consumers trust you? If so, then show them using the BBB certificate, decal, and the BBB Accredited Business Seal.
Recognition for your great reputation – When your business follows the eight requirements of BBB Accreditation, you should be recognized for doing so. By displaying your BBB Seal you show your customers that you have been recognized for your integrity, honesty and trustworthiness. Your business is added to directories and programs which are reserved only for those that are BBB accredited. Do you operate your business honestly and with integrity? If so, then get recognized for it.
Benefits For Your Community
Reduce Scams – Consumers in your marketplace have a limited amount of income to spend and ethical companies know that if they can help keep “bad apples” out, there will be more money left to spend with them. Your support of BBB helps to keep these companies out of our marketplace allowing that money to come to trustworthy businesses. Is keeping your marketplace trustworthy important to you? If so, apply to join us to help keep “bad apples” out of your marketplace.
Educate Consumers – As consumers become more educated about ethical practices and the marketplace through BBB programs, they are better armed to bypass “bad apples” and spend their money with honest, ethical businesses. Would educating consumers in your area help your marketplace? If so, apply to join us to help teach consumers how to spend their money wisely.
BBB Accredited Businesses are trustworthy businesses that agree to these BBB Standards for Trust:
1. Build Trust
2. Advertise Honestly
3. Tell the Truth
4. Be Transparent
5. Honor Promises
6. Be Responsive
7. Safeguard Privacy
8. Embody Integrity
• Apply for Accreditation Consideration
See California: http://mandelman.ml-implode.com/2012/05/the-better-business-bureau-the-state-bar-loan-mods-lawyers-in-california/
The Better Business Bureau, the State Bar, Loan Mods & Lawyers in California
For going on three years now I’ve watched the State of California more so than any other engage in a debate over loan modifications and lawyers, the key questions being: do you need one, should you have one, are lawyers scamming homeowners, and most notably, since California’s Senate Bill 94 (“SB 94”) became law in October of 2009, when can a lawyer be paid whenproviding loan modification services.
Throughout this “debate,” the Better Business Bureau has played a role by rating law firms offering loan modification services. If the BBB says that someone is ‘A’ rated then presumably consumers are more likely to turn to that firm for assistance, and obviously, being rated ‘F’ tends to have the opposite effect.
Well, recently a law firm with which I’ve become very familiar over the last three years, CDA Law in Orange County, California, was rated ‘F’ by the BBB, and predictably, within a couple of weeks the firm started losing clients because of the rating.
Before I explain the background for what’s going on here, I want to be clear about a few things:
1. I have no financial interest in CDA Law, nor am I being paid to write this.
2. I’m sure that I’ve referred at least 200 homeowners to CDA Law over the last few years, I don’t keep track of the number, but it’s in that range without question, and all I have to show for it are thank you notes.
3. CDA Law does not deserve to be rated ‘F’ by the BBB. The BBB’s ‘F’ rating is based on a politically motivated intentional misstatement of the law by certain individuals.
4. This past year I personally audited 400 randomly selected 2011 client files at CDA Law, so I know how they perform first hand. Over almost four years, firm records show it obtained permanent loan modifications for more than 3,000 California homeowners.
I also want to be clear that I am not writing this to tell homeowners that in all cases they should retain CDA Law. Every homeowner’s situation, facts and goals are different, and the decision as to which law firm one should or shouldn’t engage depends on the specifics involved.
What I am here to do is state unequivocally to homeowners that it is my considered opinion that the decision not to retain CDA Law should not be based on the firm’s BBB’s rating, because that rating is baseless and entirely inappropriate.
The fact is that upon learning of the BBB’s ‘F’ rating of CDA Law, I offered to write this because I’m all but certain that some number of homeowners who decide to avoid CDA Law because of its BBB rating will end up getting scammed and homes will be lost to foreclosure as a result.
And, at this point in the foreclosure crisis, the fact that I can say that about the chances of a homeowner getting ripped off by a scammer, or wrongfully made homeless by a servicer, is both an unthinkable tragedy and a shameful testament to the failure of our state and federal regulators to protect homeowners from predatory servicers and unscrupulous operators of various foreclosure avoidance schemes.
Okay, so why is CDA Law rated ‘F’ by the BBB?
To understand where we stand today in California as related to lawyers and loan modifications, you have to understand a few things about how it all started back in 2009, when we went through a phase where we were told by banks, government agencies and the mainstream media that everyone involved in loan modifications was a “scammer.”
According to a knowledgeable insider who worked at the California State Bar Association at the time, the State Bar had no history of lawyers committing acts of misconduct related to loan modifications until the very end of 2008 when complaints started to trickle in, and then in 2009, inundate the Bar with 800-900 a month. No one knew what was going on back then. I’m sure just seeing the raw numbers of complaints was shocking, never mind what was being said.
California is the only state with a State Bar that is both a trade association and regulatory agency. Technically, the Bar reports to the state’s Supreme Court, but at the same time the Governor can prevent the Bar from collecting its dues, and as a result the state legislature is known to put pressure on the Bar as well.
Most often, over the last 25 years, that pressure has come in the form of criticism that the Bar is not vigilant enough when it comes to prosecuting lawyers for misconduct.
By Spring of 2009, a joint task force was being set up to go after these “scammers” who were taking advantage of distressed homeowners. Included would be the Office of the Attorney General, the state’s Department of Real Estate, the FTC… and of course, the State Bar.
Then State Bar president Howard Miller saw the task force as an opportunity to show politicians in Sacramento that the Bar was ready to get tough on crime, on behalf of the defenseless victims of the foreclosure crisis.
So, during summer of that year, Howard Miller, made the following statement to the press…
“At least hundreds and perhaps thousands of California lawyers who have been victimizing those who are already victims at the most vulnerable point in their lives… every one of those lawyers will be subject to discipline and some will go to jail.”
How many of the scammers were lawyers? No one had any idea, in fact the State Bar hadn’t even had time to read the vast majority of the complaints, but there was no question that there were many charging up-front fees and claiming to be able to get loans modified, and with increasing and alarming frequency, they were definitely ripping off homeowners.
Back then, I think every major bank played messages to those waiting on hold that said: “You don’t need a lawyer, call (insert bank name) for assistance with a loan modification.” And both the state and federal government’s positions were almost identical: “You don’t need a lawyer, call your bank or a HUD counselor for assistance with a loan modification.”
To anyone watching, one thing was very clear: Neither the banks nor our government wanted homeowners to retain lawyers to help them save their homes from foreclosure.
That the banks took this position wasn’t surprising. Obviously, it would be easier to deal with a homeowner than a homeowner’s attorney. And attorneys in the mix would mean the threat of litigation, which would be both costly and time consuming for banks to defend. And as to why, in 2009, those in our government also assumed an anti-lawyer stance related to lawyers and loan modifications, to me the answer was the obvious one… they went along with the banks.
Miller’s statement always seemed to be a preposterous one to me, and I wrote about it at the time, saying that I found it impossible to accept that there were “hundreds if not thousands” of lawyers scamming homeowners in California or anywhere else for that matter.
Were there some? Of course there were some.
California is a state of enormous size; over 37 million residents, roughly 7 million homeowners and more than 235,000 licensed attorneys, according to the California State Bar Association. There are “some” of just about anything you can think of here. I’d bet money that in California today there are “some” wearing tin foil so that the space ships can’t see them. But were there ever “hundreds if not thousands” of lawyers scamming homeowners having to do with loan modifications? Not a chance.
By 2010 it was becoming increasingly obvious that that what the Bar’s president had told the press about “hundreds if not thousands of lawyers” scamming homeowners was in fact false.
Just consider that as of May 12, 2012, and this is according to the State Bar Press Office, since February of 2009, more than three years after Mr. Miller voiced those inflammatory allegations:
• Since 2009, only 18 attorneys in California have been disbarred related to providing loan modification services.
• The State Bar has “pursued disciplinary charges related to loan modification services involving about 153 attorneys.”
• Of those, only 69 have been disciplined in some way, which includes anything from being required to attend an ethics class to a temporary suspension.
• None have gone to jail.
In California, a state with over 235,000 licensed attorneys, the disbarment of 18 lawyers is hardly to be considered pandemic. And it’s a far cry from Miller’s “hundreds if not thousands,” to be sure.
There simply never were hundreds much less thousands of lawyers scamming homeowners in California.
The Banking Committees Get in On the Act…
Other politicians were fast to get in on the consumer protection act as well.
Senator Ron Calderon and Assembly Representative Pedro Nava, each the chairs of their respective banking committees, were both quick to sponsor bills claiming to protect homeowners from the proliferation of loan modification scammers.
Senator Calderon’s bill, known as SB 94, was the one signed into law on October 12, 2009, with the Mortgage Bankers Association, the California State Bar Association and the California Department of Real Estate all listed among the supporters of the bill.
SB 94 was written to apply to both lawyers and Department of Real Estate (“DRE”) licensees. The language pertaining to lawyers is found in the California Civil Code, and the language pertaining to DRE licensees is in the California Business & Professions Code.
The scams, in all cases, involved homeowners being required to pay an up-front or advance fee, so SB 94 focused on making it illegal to charge an advance fee related to providing loan modification services. So, whether we’re talking about a licensed attorney or DRE licensee, the operative language is identical. Neither is permitted to…
“…claim, demand, charge, collect, or receive any compensation until after the person has fully performed each and every service the person contracted to perform or represented that he or she would perform.”
But, as it pertained to DRE licensees, however, SB 94 went a step further by modifying language contained in Business & Professions (“B&P”) Code Section 10026 to prevent DRE licensees from breaking up loan modification services or fees into component parts as shown below in bold:
DIVISION 4. REAL ESTATE
PART 1. LICENSING OF PERSONS
CHAPTER 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS …………………………. 10000-10035
10026. (a) The term “advance fee,” as used in this part, is a fee, regardless of the form, that is claimed, demanded, charged, received, or collected by a licensee for services requiring a license, or for a listing, as that term is defined in Section 10027, before fully completing the service the licensee contracted to perform or represented would be performed. Neither an advance fee nor the services to be performed shall be separated or divided into components for the purpose of avoiding the application of this division.
As a result, a DRE licensee can only view a loan modification as a single service, and therefore only be paid after that one service has been provided, which would be when the homeowner is either approved or denied for a loan modification… the very end of the process.
However, there is no language in SB 94 that prohibits lawyers from breaking up loan modification services and/or fees into parts, as there is for DRE licensees.
Therefore, while SB 94 precludes lawyers from charging advance fees, the law does allow lawyers providing loan modification services to be paid for a specific set of contracted services upon their completion, regardless of whether at the beginning, middle or end of the loan modification process.
The legal profession refers to this as the “unbundling” of services.
Even though literally hundreds of lawyers from all over California contacted the State Bar to ask about the unbundling of services into separate contractual agreements under SB 94, with compensation being received at the end of each contract, for more than two years, the State Bar remained quiet on the subject.
Of course, it didn’t much matter what the banks or government entities had said in early 2009, many homeowners discovered very quickly that calling their bank directly, or a HUD counselor, did not result in their loans being modified… and on top of that, it was a maddening and even torturous experience. It was becoming clearer every day that having a lawyer to help get your loan modified wasn’t such a bad idea.
It seemed that the storm had passed.
Enter: The Better Business Bureau
In 2010, the BBB reacted to the rhetoric by giving an ‘F’ rating to just about everyone providing loan modification services in California.
Frankly, I always found that policy to be disadvantageous to homeowners because it forced consumers to choose a firm from a basket of ‘Fs,’ and since clearly some deserved the low rating and others didn’t, I reasoned that such a policy actually increased the potential for consumers to make a bad choice.
Having successfully completed more than 3,000 loan modifications for California homeowners over the last four years, not only is CDA Law not a scammer, but they’d certainly appear at or near the top of anyone’s list of most effective firms modifying loans.
Eventually, the BBB apparently agreed, awarding CDA Law an ‘A-‘ rating for a period of time.
And, yes… I am the authority on this issue.
I want the reader to know that what I’m saying is not based on a cursory review of the subject matter. My qualifications to make the statements I’m making about loan modifications and the foreclosure crisis in California at the very least equal anyone else’s. Although it was never my intention that this be the case, on the subject of the foreclosure crisis, I’ve become a leading expert, and I can’t imagine anyone contesting that claim.
In point of fact, this past year I was accepted as an “expert witness” by the California State Bar Court and I provided expert testimony on loan modifications and the foreclosure crisis in an administrative hearing on behalf of an attorney in that court.
I started writing about the foreclosure crisis in 2008. Since then I’ve written close to 700 articles on the political, economic, social and legal aspects of the financial and foreclosure crises. To do that, as you might imagine, I’ve read essentially all of the most widely known articles, reports, or studies that have been published nationwide.
Last year, when I stopped counting, I’d received more than 30,000 emails from homeowners all over the country. I’ve personally interviewed close to 4,000 homeowners at risk of foreclosure along with hundreds of attorneys involved in representing such homeowners.
In 2010, I also conducted a qualitative study of homeowner complaints, which included reading 1200 letters written by homeowners who had either hired a lawyer, a mortgage broker, or no one at all to help them with their loan modification.
I was an invited speaker on the subject of loan modifications at the American Bar Association’s Conference on Consumer Financial Services, appearing on a panel with Thomas Pahl, an Assistant Director in the FTC’s Division of Financial Practices, and I was invited to speak on the crisis again, from the homeowner’s perspective, at the 9th Circuit Judicial Conference in front of a few hundred federal court judges.
Additionally, I’ve been invited to speak at numerous homeowner meetings, and at a luncheon held by the Orange County Bar Association, for whom I also taught a CLE class for attorneys on loan modifications, alongside a compliance and mortgage banking attorney, and an ethics and bar defense attorney.
And I have not let up for what is now going on four years. I continue to write my blog, Mandelman Matters, which is among the most widely read on the subject, and I continue to make my email and phone number available online, which means I get hundreds of calls and emails each month from homeowners at risk of foreclosure, and attorneys involved in foreclosure defense in almost all 50 states.
Lastly, I have no dog in this race, as they say. I’ve never been in the mortgage or real estate industries, never been paid a nickel by a homeowner, nor for referring anyone anywhere. I’m not personally at risk of foreclosure… today, anyway… and I have no direct financial incentive to say anything specific about the crisis or about CDA Law.
Now back to the BBB…
This past fall, members of the state legislature told the State Bar that they needed to clean up the back log of disciplinary cases, and once again, politics appears to have played a role in the Bar’s use of inflammatory rhetoric and behavior.
Suzan Anderson, Supervisor of the State Bar’s Special Team on Loan Modification Fraud, while speaking at the State Bar’s Annual Meeting last September, announced that the Bar would now be taking the position that lawyers helping clients with loan modifications would not be permitted to unbundle services related to loan modifications.
Ms. Anderson said that it was now the position of the California State Bar that lawyers working on obtaining loan modifications on behalf of their clients could not be paid until the end of the loan modification process, even though no such language is found in the statute. Not only that, but a disclaimer at the bottom of her presentation’s front page stated that this was not the official position of the State Bar, so once again the Bar wasn’t willing to make it a policy.
Following the State Bar’s annual meeting, prosecutors at the Bar began using the threat of SB 94 to get attorneys who were offering loan modification services to accept some sort of disciplinary action for unbundling their services. These attorneys were only accepting payment for services upon the completion of contracted services, and they therefore were complying with both the language contained in SB 94 and the bill’s legislative intent, according to its drafter. None that I knew personally ever charged advance fees.
The State Bar has provided no basis for their new opinion, nor have they allowed the issue to be argued in front of a judge. Maybe the basis is their misreading of the statute. Maybe it’s because the banking lobby has pressured the state legislature to do everything possible to stop homeowners from hiring lawyers to help them get their loans modified.
Or, maybe it’s just a feeling they have… I really don’t care. The Bar’s made up of lawyers and they’ve had almost three years to figure it out, so unless they’re remedial readers, I’m done giving them a free pass.
Never mind for a moment what the law says, the fact is that lawyers could not offer to help homeowners with loan modifications if they couldn’t be paid until the end of the process, and the reason should be very easy to understand.
Homeowners applying for a loan modification… by definition… are experiencing a significant financial hardship and as a result, many end up filing bankruptcy at some point in the process.
That means if a lawyer were not paid along the way as services were completed, then he or she would often work for six months or a year to get a loan modified… and then, upon advising the client to file bankruptcy… have his or her bill for services placed into the bankruptcy as unsecured debt to be discharged. The lawyer would never be able to receive payment for what could easily be months of time spent working on getting the loan modified.
It’s an unresolvable conflict. Work all year. Advise your client to file bankruptcy. And then tear up your bill for your year’s work on the loan modification. Do you know anyone that could or would work under such a condition?
The State Bar, if asked, says that they’re not trying to prevent homeowners at risk of foreclosure from being able to hire lawyers to help them get their loans modified. But, that statement strains credulity when their so-called interpretation sets up the type of conflict as is found with SB 94.
What the State Bar started doing last fall is clearly politically motivated and very wrong. And at this point, the issue is going to have to be settled by the courts as there is already one lawsuit filed by an attorney against the State Bar over their interpretation of SB 94, and most assuredly others are going to be filed very soon.
By the way, it’s interesting because as I mentioned, outside of threatening lawyers with charges of unbundling services under SB 94, the Bar has never actually brought such charges into court. Instead, the State Bar only threatens attorneys with violations of SB 94, but then offers the lawyers some sort of deal to avoid have charges filed, and in all cases to-date the lawyers have taken the deal rather than take on the risk and expense of fighting the State Bar in court.
Once the lawyer accepts the discipline deal offered by the Bar, his name goes onto the Bar’s regulatory scorecard that they can then show to whichever members of the state legislature are interested, as proof that they are cleaning up their backlog of cases and being tough on the lawyers they regulate.
But, let’s be honest about this… we know which members of the state legislature we’re talking about here, right? Why, the members of the senate and/or assembly banking committees, of course. Do I know that to be a fact? No. But, if anyone is feeling lucky, let me know and I’d be happy to see if we can’t arrange a little wager. Who else do you think it could be… telecommunications? Agriculture? Please…
It’s really quite scandalous.
The California State Bar has been getting away with using attorneys that offer to help homeowners obtain loan modifications as their political piñata for far too long. It’s an example of a state agency abusing its power for political purposes and it must be stopped before its behavior causes any further harm to California homeowners.
Three years after SB 94 was signed into law, and its become abundantly clear that Miller’s statements were made for political purposes, without any regard for the truth or consideration of the harm such statements could cause.
Miller was all too aware that the State Bar was under attack by some in the state legislature for not aggressively disciplining lawyers, and he saw what was going on related to loan modifications and the foreclosure crisis as a way to look like a tough regulator of the legal profession.
The BBB Strikes Again…
One of the ways the Bar has endeavored to made life difficult for lawyers offering to help homeowners obtain loan modifications is by telling the BBB about what I would call their incorrect and baseless interpretation of SB 94.
And if you’re a lawyer helping homeowners with loan modifications, it’s not at all unusual to wake up one morning to find your firm has been rated ‘F’ by the BBB.
Why? Because you’re unbundling loan modification services, of course. Contracting to perform services A, B, C & D… and not being paid until those services have been completed to your client’s satisfaction. Just like the language in SB 94 says you can do.
And just so everyone knows… I’m far from alone in this view. Most or all State Bar Defense and Ethics attorneys in California share my view, as do numerous legal scholars and literally hundreds of other licensed practicing California attorneys.
We’ve learned a lot since 2009, or at least we should have…
In 2009, when President Obama announced his Making Home Affordable plan, most people in this country believed it would work. Obama was the smart president… the man of the people.
It hasn’t worked though, at least nowhere near as he said it would, and we’ve also learned that he is as Wall Street friendly as they come… at least that’s how he behaved during his first term.
BBB of Southern Florida and the Caribbean
In 2001 Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown alerted Congress and the General Public about the BBB’s wrong doing.
Click here for the Original Congressional Record E1550
E1550 CONGRESSIONAL RECORD – Extensions of Remarks August 3, 2001
CONCERN-REGARDING BUSINESS OWNERS AND THEIR EMPLOYEES
HON. CORRINE BROWN
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Thursday, August 2, 2001
Ms. BROWN of Florida. Mr. Speaker and fellow Members of Congress, I want to alert you to a matter of concern that I have regarding business owners and their employees, particularly small business owners, within our country.
This problem has been told to me by some of my constituents and is a problem about which business owners throughout the country have written to you.
We are a nation that is built upon the rule of law.
This has assured a system of accountability for our conduct as individuals, businesses and institutions.
Congress, as elected representatives, meets and acts to improve and refine the system in order to protect the people and their property.
The foundation as framed by our nation’s founders in the Constitution is the concept of due process and the right thereof. We each have the assurance that the law protects our person and property from libelous, slanderous, and otherwise tortuous interference with our reputation or business.
Unfortunately, I have learned that we have within our country a private organization that with the appearance of being quasi-governmental and without any legal or regulatory oversight and control can libel and slander and tortuously interfere with a small business.
They can do so with virtual immunity.
This organization is the National Better Business Bureau and their franchise local Better Business Bureaus.
At times, some of these bureaus classify small business owners as unsatisfactory, libel and slander them with opinion and innuendo, and provide them no due process to correct the problem.
If sued in court, they argue qualified immunity under the guise of the public good.
No one disputes the right of a Better Business Bureau to print facts. It is when they print falsehoods, opinion, or negative innuendo that a mechanism for redress or correction must be assured.
When closely examined, however, one finds that there are Better Business Bureaus that arbitrarily and capriciously exclude and negatively classify those they don’t like.
They also frequently rate companies with terrible records as being satisfactory.
No written guidelines or rules are available that require the Better Business Bureau to adhere to any legal standard in their dealings with business. (With the internet, the conduct of one local Better Business Bureau is then taken as true and disseminated everywhere.)
The Better Business Bureaus also charge money for these reports.
They make money without responsibility for how they make it.
Why are they above the law and other businesses?
On a first-hand basis, I recently inquired of the National Better Business Bureau regarding the process and I was met with hostility and rebuke.
Prominent members of my community who tried to ascertain information about how to redress a concern with a local Better Business Bureau were hung up on by senior ranking National Better Business Bureau employees.
The process I have described is not in the public’s best interest.
It is not appropriate for us to allow our business owners and their employees, the men and women who make our country strong, to be exposed to this arbitrary and capricious process.
A right to redress the actions of the Better Business Bureau when libelous, slanderous, arbitrary, or capricious action is apparent is a fundamental right we must insure.
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The Truth about The BBB Rating System
Posted on February 24, 2010 by bbb
The heart of the BBB is their rating system applied to compare businesses
Consumers go to the BBB franchises’ web sites to determine which business to use and which one to avoid.
Consumers’ decision is influenced by the business rating as advertised on the BBB franchises’ web sites.
The advertised rating has financial consequences, especially in competitive industries.
When the BBB advertises one business rating as C+ and another as B and both businesses offer the same services, customers with “vivid memories from elementary school”, will prefer the business graded B.
The BBB rating scale consists of 14 levels.
The BBB represents itself as if they have an accurate, reliable, non biased and uniform mechanism to compare the quality of one business to another and to properly grade businesses over the 14 level spectrum.
This is a very serious undertaking.
Unfortunately this is not the case.
The truth is shocking!
The CBBB, the central body of more than 100 privately owned BBB franchises, advertises various information how a rating should be done, but it is not being followed.
Here is what really happens:
The main factor affecting a business rating is the number of valid complaints against the business; they call this process of passing a judgment and making the decision “validation”
Each privately owned BBB franchise is judging complaints submitted against businesses under its jurisdiction. The validation is done in-house by employees with no legal qualification, no thorough understanding of the industry of the business they are judging, no court of law experience, no time or resources to properly investigate each complaint, none of the requirements one would expect in order to carry on such a task properly.
Judgments are passed in haste according to the employee “flavor of the day”.
Many times judgments are passed by these individuals without any regard to the advertised description what makes a complaint valid and what does not.
It is well known and documented that businesses protesting against wrong validation manage to reverse the wrong judgment, but in most cases they are ignored; no matter how substantial the evidence is that they present. The BBB privately owned corporations act as if they are beyond reproach, without any accountability to the financial damages their malpractice is causing.
Complaints from businesses about a franchisee wrong doings are ignored. Erroneously, the BBB franchises are not members of there own organization. They are the only business for which one can not find a rating. They are enjoying amnesty from being graded on the BBB web sites, allowing themselves to not follow descent and proper business etiquette or ethics.
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5 Responses to The Truth about The BBB Rating System
L GYURO says:
October 25, 2011 at 2:52 pm
NOW WHEN I SEE A SITES BBB LOGO I WILL NOT BUY FROM THEM.
BBB, BUYER BETTER BEWARE. YOU CANNOT WIN IF THEY BELONG TO BBB. WHEN YOU SEND UN A COMPLAINT BBB DOES NOT UNDERSTAND IT, MISINTERPS IT. CAN GO ON UNTIL YOU GET DISCUSTED.
July 23, 2011 at 10:49 pm
I have one complaint and they gave me an F rating. One complaint. I don’t pay the BBB ransom either but what is really awful and is hurting my business if if anyone searches my business or even my name, they come up top with this F rating because of one complaint in all the years they’ve been tracking me. I’ve never even signed up to be in their database.
I’m going to need to sue them for damages.
david goodson says:
May 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm
having the same problem when i paid i had a A rating now i dont pay F rating they call me up once a year and tell me i have a complaint that it will cost 350.00 dollars to join back to take care of the complaint after i join back they tell me that my complaint was somebody enquiring about my bussinessssssss. thre yrs in a row now im not joined im a f rated company biggist scam think its run by the moffia its strong arm robbery how can we get rid of this company forgood they must pay off people to run this type bussines
April 22, 2011 at 12:31 am
I found this article because I was wondering what the BBB’s rating of the BBB was. Of course, as of now I have been unable to find such a rating. Any ideas? Also, is there any info available on the statistics of the ratings given by BBB. Like the average rating? Median rating? etc, etc.
Jack Welch says:
February 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm
I’ve been having problems for years with the BBB after I quit paying their yearly “ransom”. My business has 4 complaints in 25 years and I have an F rating. Other companies may have dozens (and in some cases with large companies, thousands) of complaints, yet they have an A+ rating. Does anyone see someething wrong with this situation. I’d like to sue my local BBB. Can anyone offer me any advice? I’m sick and tired of being run down by a bunch of “know it alls” who don’t really know anything. All these fools do is register complaints, wether they are legitimate or not. Any help offered will be appreciated. Jack Welch Greensboro, NC
A form of publication which tends to cause one to lose the esteem of the community is defamation. This is injury to reputation. A person is liable for the defamation of another. In order to prove defamation, the plaintiff must prove:
• that a statement was made about the plaintiff’s reputation, honesty or integrity that is not true;
• publication to a third party (i.e., another person hears or reads the statement); and
• the plaintiff suffers damages as a result of the statement.
Slander is a form of defamation that consists of making false oral statements about a person which would damage that person’s reputation. If I spread a rumor that my neighbor has been in jail and this is not true, I could be held liable for slander. Defamation which occurs by written statements is known as libel. Libel may also result from a picture or visual representa¬tion. Truth is an absolute defense to slander or libel.
Some statements, while libelous or slanderous, are absolutely privileged in the sense that the statements can be made without fear of a lawsuit for slander. The best example is a statement made in a court of law. An untrue statement made by a witness about a person in court which damages that person’s reputation will generally not cause liability to the witness as far as slander is concerned. However, if the statement is untrue, and the person knows the statement is untrue, the crime of perjury may have been committed.
If a communication is made in good faith on a subject that the communicating party has a legitimate right or interest in making the communication, such a communication could be exempt from slander liability due to a qualified privileged.
Smith, a district manager of Acme Recording Company, was investigating complaints of mismanagement of the a city office of the company. As part of his investigation he called at the home of Ann, the secretary of that office. She expressed the opinion that part of the trouble was caused by stealing of parts and equipment by Jones, another employee. Jones was later discharged and sued Ann for slander. Was she liable? No. The circumstances of the investigation, the relevance of the matter to the employer’s business, and the fact that the statement was privately told to a superior, led to the conclusion that Ann did not make the statement with malice. Because the statement was not made maliciously and was made to a representative of the employer regarding a matter within the range of corporate business, Ann was protected by a qualified privilege from liability for slander.
The media also enjoys a qualified privilege for stories that turn out to be false as long as the information was released without malice (i.e., without intent to harm) and a retraction or correction is made when the matter is brought to the attention of the publishing party.