How does Better Business Bureau Make Money? (BBB Business Model)

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has established itself as a recognizable and influential entity in the business world.

However, its financial operations and revenue generation methods often remain a topic of curiosity and, at times, controversy.

The History of the Better Business Bureau (BBB)

Origins and Early Years

The Better Business Bureau’s origins can be traced back to the early 20th century, a time when deceptive advertising was rampant in the United States.

This era saw a significant increase in false and misleading advertisements, which led to widespread consumer distrust.

In response, several business leaders and advertising professionals began to advocate for more ethical practices in advertising.

In 1912, the first National Vigilance Committee was formed, a predecessor to today’s BBB.

This committee, established by advertisers, aimed to address and correct misleading advertisements and promote ethical business practices.

This movement was the genesis of the BBB, which evolved from these local vigilance committees.

Expansion and Development

Over the years, the BBB expanded its scope beyond just advertising. It started to focus on general business practices, aiming to foster trust between businesses and consumers.

This broadened scope led to the establishment of local BBBs across various regions, which worked towards maintaining high standards in business practices.

The BBB system grew rapidly in North America, with numerous regional offices being established across the United States and Canada.

By offering reliability reports and handling consumer complaints, the BBB positioned itself as a central figure in consumer protection and business self-regulation.

Modernization and Online Presence

With the advent of the internet, the BBB adapted by moving its services online. This transition enabled consumers to access business reliability reports and file complaints more efficiently.

The online platform expanded the BBB’s reach and influence, allowing it to operate more effectively in the digital age.

Challenges and Reforms

Throughout its history, the BBB has faced various challenges and criticisms, particularly concerning its rating system and the perceived impartiality of its accreditation process.

These challenges led to reforms and changes in policies to maintain the organization’s credibility and effectiveness in promoting ethical business practices.

Legacy and Current Role

Today, the BBB continues to play a significant role in the marketplace. It serves as a resource for consumers to check the reliability of businesses and helps mediate disputes between businesses and consumers.

Despite facing criticisms and challenges, the BBB has managed to maintain its position as a notable entity in fostering trust and ethical practices in the business world.

The history of the BBB reflects its evolution from a small committee focused on advertising ethics to a significant organization influencing business practices across North America.

Its journey through various challenges and adaptations showcases its resilience and ongoing commitment to fostering an ethical marketplace.

The BBB’s Revenue Sources

Accreditation Fees

A significant portion of the BBB’s revenue comes from the fees it charges for business accreditation.

This accreditation is not mandatory but offers businesses certain benefits, such as a BBB seal, suggesting a level of trustworthiness and ethical practices.

The cost of this accreditation varies significantly depending on the size and location of the business, with small businesses paying fees that typically start around $500 annually, while larger businesses could pay more than $10,000 a year​​​​.

Services and Mediation Fees

In addition to accreditation fees, the BBB generates income through various services it offers, such as dispute resolution and mediation between businesses and consumers.

These services, often seen as a part of the BBB’s commitment to fostering trust in the marketplace, contribute to its financial model but are less of a primary revenue source compared to accreditation fees.

How the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Works

How the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Works

Accreditation Process

The BBB offers accreditation to businesses that meet its standards of trust and ethical practices.

This process involves a thorough review to ensure that the business adheres to the BBB’s Standards for Trust, which include building and maintaining trust, advertising honestly, telling the truth, being transparent, honoring promises, being responsive to customers, safeguarding privacy, and embodying integrity​​.

Businesses seeking accreditation must apply to their local BBB chapter, and if approved, pay an annual fee.

This fee varies based on the size and location of the business. Accredited businesses are allowed to display the BBB seal, signifying their commitment to these standards​​.

Consumer Complaint Handling

The BBB provides a platform for consumers to file complaints against businesses. These complaints generally relate to marketplace issues experienced with the services or products a business provides.

The BBB then forwards these complaints to the business for a response. The BBB aims to mediate and close complaints within 30 business days, though this can vary based on the complexity of the issue​​.

Rating System

The BBB rates businesses based on several factors, including the business’s complaint history, how long the business has been operating, transparency about business practices, and adherence to BBB standards.

While this rating system is designed to reflect a business’s reliability and adherence to ethical practices, it has faced criticism for being influenced by whether a business is accredited and pays a fee to the BBB​​​​.

Educational Resources and Public Information

Beyond handling complaints and accrediting businesses, the BBB also serves as a resource for public education.

It provides information on various consumer issues, tips for businesses to maintain ethical practices, and alerts about scams and fraudulent activities.

This aspect of the BBB’s work aims to foster an informed and ethical marketplace.

Dispute Resolution Services

For businesses that are BBB accredited, the organization offers dispute resolution services.

This includes helping businesses and consumers mediate disputes and find resolutions to their issues.

The BBB’s role in dispute resolution underscores its commitment to maintaining trust and fairness in business practices.

BBB’s Role and Influence

While the BBB does not have any legal or regulatory power, it wields significant influence through its ratings, accreditation, and public information services.

Businesses often seek BBB accreditation to establish credibility with consumers, and many consumers refer to BBB ratings and reports when considering transactions with businesses.

BBB Funding, Revenue Generation, and Valuation

Funding and Revenue Sources

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) operates primarily on a funding model based on accreditation fees paid by businesses.

These fees are the main source of revenue for the BBB and vary based on factors such as the size and location of the business.

For example, small businesses might pay an annual fee starting around $500, while larger corporations could be charged over $10,000 per year for accreditation​​​​.

In addition to accreditation fees, the BBB also generates income through services it offers, like dispute resolution and mediation, though these are supplementary to the main revenue stream from accreditation fees.

Amount of Revenue Generated

The BBB, being a non-profit organization, does not operate with the aim of generating profits for shareholders.

However, it does generate substantial revenue to cover its operational costs.

In past reports, it was noted that collectively, the BBBs across the nation have an annual revenue in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Most of this revenue stems from the businesses they oversee through accreditation fees and other service charges​​.


As a non-profit organization, the BBB’s valuation is not typically calculated in the same way as for-profit corporations.

Non-profits are generally evaluated based on their operational efficiency, impact, and sustainability rather than a market value or capitalization.

Therefore, a specific “valuation” in the traditional business sense is not applicable to the BBB.

The financial health and operational effectiveness of the BBB can be assessed through its annual reports and financial statements, which provide insights into its revenue streams, expenditure, and how funds are allocated towards its various programs and services.

Controversies and Criticisms

The Rating System’s Integrity

The BBB’s rating system has been a subject of scrutiny. A past investigation revealed instances where businesses received higher ratings after paying the membership fee.

This has raised questions about the integrity of the ratings and whether they truly reflect a business’s practices or are influenced by financial transactions with the BBB​​​​.

Misconceptions About Its Nature

A common misconception about the BBB is that it’s a government organization with regulatory powers, which it is not.

It is a non-profit organization, and its influence is largely based on public perception and the trust businesses and consumers place in its ratings and accreditation​​.

The BBB’s Role and Impact

Despite controversies, the BBB plays a significant role in the marketplace. Its accreditation is sought after by many businesses to establish credibility and trust with consumers.

The BBB also offers resources for consumers to check the reliability of businesses and file complaints, which the BBB helps to mediate.

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The BBB’s financial model, primarily based on accreditation fees, alongside its services, allows it to operate as a non-profit organization.

While its rating system and the perceived value of its accreditation have been questioned, the BBB continues to be a recognized entity in the business community, influencing consumer trust and business practices.

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