Bad businesses – the ones that aren't ethical in their dealings with customers and don't deliver the product or services you paid for – need to be reported so others don't get burned like you did. If you run into problems with a business and can't resolve the problem with the owner or customer service rep, you have several options for reporting a business for bad practices.
File a Consumer Complaint
Most states offer a way to file a complaint against a business. For instance, in California, go to ca.gov and file a consumer complaint against a business in that state with the Office of the Attorney General. In Virginia, the state attorney general is your best bet for filing a complaint against a business based in the state and against outside companies that do business in Virginia. In most states, be prepared to complete a form that asks for the company’s full contact information and a summary of your complaint or the resolution you want. On a national level, you have the option to file an FTC complaint. Federal Trade Commission complaints can be filed online at FTC.gov.
Report to Credit Agencies
If you run a business, you can report another business to the four major business credit bureaus if you extended credit to the bad business for your services or products and the company did not make its payments. The four agencies include Equifax Business, Experian Business, Business Credit USA and Dun & Bradstreet. You need the company’s employee identification number, or EIN, to file a report to these agencies. Unfortunately, individual consumers do not have a way to report a bad business to the credit agencies.
Post Reviews Online
The power of negative reviews is getting stronger thanks to free popular review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. You can also post negative reviews on sites such as Angie’s List, Judy’s Book and Consumers’ Checkbook if you’re a member. If the bad business refuses to square things away with you, head to your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts to tell everyone you know – and their friends – about your bad experience with the business. Before you post, make sure you have a defensible claim. State the problem in a logical manner and avoid inflammatory remarks that make your report questionable or potentially slanderous.
File a BBB Complaint
As a consumer or a business, you can file a complaint against a bad business by contacting your local Better Business Bureau. The BBB sends your complaint to the business and asks for a response within 14 days. Be aware that your complaint may be publicly filed on the BBB's website.
Find out if the company is a member of the BBB by doing a better business bureau search on their website. If the company is a member of the BBB, it is required to respond to all better business bureau complaints so it doesn't lose its accreditation. Other companies are not required to respond, but many do so when they consider that a complaint may become available for everyone to read online.
Get the Media Involved
Some local television news stations host shows designed to help consumers resolve problems with a business. For instance, in Seattle, KOMO News' "Problem Solvers" invites viewers to submit their problem with a local business, and sometimes the station will investigate and initiate a resolution. The bad business may be more willing to cooperate knowing that its name and brand could be affected by reporting on its questionable practices.
- California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General: Consumer Complaint Against a Business/Company
- Virginia Consumer Assistance – Where to File Complaints
- KOMONews: Problem Solvers
- PCWorld: Yelp Alternatives – Which User Review Services Matter?
- Entrepreneur: The ABCs of Business Credit
- Better Business Bureau: BBB Complaint Form – The Complaint Process
Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist and speaker who started writing in 1998. She writes business plans for startups and established companies and teaches marketing and promotional tactics at local workshops. Wagner's business and marketing articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business" and "The Mortgage Press," among others. She holds a B.S. from Eastern Illinois University.