"Medical quackery and the promotions of nostrums and worthless drugs were among the most prominent abuses which led to the establishment of formal self-regulation in business and, in turn, to the creation of the NBBB."
BBB's inception has been credited to the court case initiated by the government against a number of firms, including the Coca-Cola Company, in 1906, after the Pure Food and Drug Act had been become law. The trial found the legal charges to be unfounded, and as a result Samuel Candler Dobbs, sales manager of Coca-Cola and later its president, took up the cause of truth in advertising.
In 1909, Dobbs became president of the Associated Advertising Clubs of America, now the American Advertising Federation (AAF), and began to make speeches on the subject. In 1911, he was involved in the adoption of the “Ten Commandments of Advertising", one of the first codes of advertising developed by groups of advertising firms and individual businesses. Similar organizations in succeeding decades, such as the National Better Business Commission, Inc. of the Associated Advertising Clubs of the World (1921), and the National Association of Better Business Bureaus, Inc. (1933) merged to become the Association of Better Business Bureaus, Inc in 1946. In 1970 it was merged into the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
The Better Business Bureau name and torch logo are federally registered trademarks. Use of the logo is limited to the Accredited Business Identification (ABIP) logo for printed materials and is not for online use. Online use accredited businesses must join the BBBOnline Security Seal program.
Dispute resolution procedures are regulated by the Council of the Better Business Bureaus. All BBBs are required to be members of this council; there is no independent Better Business Bureau. At a local level, the bureaus are governed by a board of directors. Though all bureaus are regulated by the Council, the Council is controlled by local BBB representation.
Complaints about the practice of professions like medicine, law and accounting are not handled by the BBB and are referred to agencies regulating those professions.
Another criticism against the BBB is the fact that its revenue comes from accredited businesses, raising the question about its partiality on handling disputes and complaints when the BBB may jeopardize its own funding. This criticism is refuted by the system as most BBB's routinely reject applications for accreditation and kick out businesses that are paying for accreditation when they violate the Standards of Trust as determined by the national Council. Many BBB's have lists on their local websites of rejected and revoked businesses. At minimum, BBB is supposed to notate complaints on the "Reliability Report" section of its web site. If a branch does not act reasonably on behalf of a consumer, a complaint may be filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). BBB tries to associate with government entities and law enforcement; however, it is privately run by persons who seek to foster the health of companies. It can inequitably protect its members, despite their clearly offensive behaviors.
Although recognized as a national body, each BBB entity is run separately, much like a franchise. Corporations that find themselves moving from one location to another (that falls in the jurisdiction of another BBB) cannot transfer their membership because one BBB franchise does not recognize another BBB franchise. A corporation must completely eradicate their membership from one BBB and then reapply in the new area. Any company record can be found, regardless of geographic location, by using their national database at www.bbb.org which minimizes this concern.