Have you ever been so upset with a company after a terrible experience or lack of response that you threatened to go to the Better Business Bureau (among other choice words)? Well, you may want to plan future attacks more carefully. The BBB and other associations have members, just like any other association. If you are unsatisfied with a lawyer and tell him that you will complain to the medical association, will it carry any weight? If you tell your accountant that you are going to write a letter to the teachers’ association, will she care?
Certain companies subscribe to the Better Business Bureau and take their accreditation seriously. Companies that don’t subscribe, in most cases, don’t care if you complain to the BBB. You must do a little homework to ensure that you are leveraging the correct association. For example, in the United States, Sears does not subscribe to BBB, but Microsoft Corporation does. A threat of action to the BBB will hold much more weight with Microsoft.
In other cases there is a governing body, like the telecom companies in Canada. The Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) for Bell Canada or Rogers Communications is the last point of escalation. The Ontario Energy Board for Direct Energy or Enbridge will take complaints from Ontario residents seriously. Be sure you are aware of who they don’t want to hear from, and use it to your advantage. You need to find the key words that will mobilize them into resolving your issue to your satisfaction.
As a last resort, you can take your consumer complaints to the state/province Attorney General’s office. I have not heard of any requests from the Canadian or provincial AGs on behalf of customers and neither have any of my colleagues. Perhaps it is because our American friends have less patience with poor support or have a better connection with their AG, but in the case of U.S. customers, the AGs have stepped in many times.
The AG will send a letter to the offending company. An adequate response from the company will generally be satisfactory, so be sure to provide as much detail as possible and demonstrate that you have already gone through all available channels. I have been responsible for responding to AG letters at multiple companies. At the companies I worked for, it happened rarely but was treated seriously in all cases.
Readers: Have you ever threatened a company with a complaint to the Better Business Bureau? Has anyone had to get their Attorney General involved? What was the outcome? What other bodies will fight for consumers?