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BBB now rating businesses with letter grades

November 15, 2010

The Better Business Bureau, one of the first organizations to rate businesses on their honesty and fairness to customers, has changed its rating system to rate companies on letter grades A+ through F, replacing the previous "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory" ratings.

The new system, the BBB contends, provides more specific information for businesses to find trustworthy suppliers and vendors, and provide a more precise guide to improving operations. 

The new letter grades are displayed on individual company profiles called "BBB Reliability Reports." All are free and accessible online at

Computers automatically calculate the new letter grade ratings. On each company’s Reliability Report page, a box states "Click Here to Update Your Company Information." Companies can update the information used to calculate their ratings by going to 

The proprietary BBB ratings formula considers 17 weighted factors, using objective information and actual incidences of a business’s behavior that are verified and evaluated by BBB professionals. Specific issues affecting a business’s rating are described in detail in BBB Reliability Reports. Ratings factors include:

• The business’s overall complaint history with the BBB, including the number and severity of complaints from customers to the BBB;

• Whether complaints have been resolved in a timely manner or the business has demonstrated a good faith effort to resolve them;

• How long the business has been operating and whether it meets appropriate competency licensing;

• Government actions against the business related to marketplace activities;

• Advertising issues evaluated by the BBB; and

• Whether the business is a BBB Accredited Business and committed to BBB standards.

Steve Bernas, president of the BBB-Chicago, said his agency has seen more and more businesses use complaints as a tool for evaluating their own business operations and determining where changes are necessary. 

"Nobody likes to get complaints but when they are used as improvement tools, they become valuable," he said.

It is critically important that all businesses in northern Illinois provide the latest information to the BBB at 

The information will remain confidential and is the basis of providing an accurate grade under the new ratings system.

Begun in northern Illinois in 1926, the BBB reports on more than 4 million U.S. and Canadian businesses.