The Council of Better Business Bureaus (BBB) announced its own online service that will attempt to self-regulate the Internet marketplace. The new service is designed to identify online businesses that have agreed the standard of conduct issued by the BBB.
"Currently there is no easy, trusted way for consumers to separate the legitimate online offer from the dubious one, and the marketing volume on the Internet makes informed choices more difficult than ever," said James L. Bast, president of the CBBB.
"Our new BBBOnLine service will provide the electronic marketplace with a means to quickly and easily identify online businesses that have agreed to adhere to truthful and accurate advertising claims, make meaningful commitments to customer satisfaction, and resolve, quickly and fairly, any complaints that may arise," said Bast.
Participating companies that commit to meeting the Better Business Bureau's standards will be licensed to display an encrypted BBBOnLine seal in their online advertising. According to BBB, the seal would be immediately withdrawn from any business that fails to answer consumer complaints, or otherwise refuses to comply with BBBOnLine standards. There will be a graduated fee charged for the license, but the BBB is not releasing the fee structure at this time.
Russ Bodoff, vice president of marketing at BBB, told Newsbytes, "The standards for online participation is greater than for our regular membership. For example, before we approve an online company we actually must visit their place of operation, and the company must agree to binding arbitration of any unresolved disputes."
The service is expected to be fully operational in first quarter 1997. Founding sponsor companies include Ameritech, AT&T;, Eastman Kodak Company, GTE, Hewlett-Packard Company, Netscape, Sony Electronics, US West Media Group and Visa USA.
According to BBB, when a consumer locates an online advertiser displaying the BBBOnLine CARE seal, they will be able to link to the BBBOnLine home page , which will show the BBBOnLine standards. Also on the BBBOnLine home page will be a reliability report that describes the company's management, time in business, and relevant aspects of its goods and services. The report also will list complaint experience and other evidence of marketplace behavior, and the BBB's conclusions regarding its marketplace record. The BBB reliability report will then link back to the company's web site.
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