Although the Better Business Bureau is known for keeping track of, and alerting the public to, scams that are doing the rounds, its main function is to serve as a place where consumers can make inquiries about businesses they are thinking of using, as well as lodge complaints about businesses that have not measured up in some way.
To that end, the BBB serving Mainland BC has recently published a list of the top 10 types of businesses that consumers complained about in 2016. Top of the list, with 218 complaints, was parking lots and garages.
“The typical complaint about these businesses is generally around some kind of questionable activity,” says Evan Kelly, senior communications advisor. “It’s that type of business. Who likes getting a ticket? A lot of people complain about it.”
A typical complaint is that a customer says they left a ticket on the dashboard, then gets a ticket. When they complain, the company says they couldn’t see the dashboard ticket. “A lot of companies respond to these complaints, which is what we want to see.”
Stereo system dealers, typically big box ones, were next on the list with 200 complaints. Other large or big box-style companies on the top 10 list include automobile dealers (new cars) with 144; telephone services (109); furniture dealers (107), and online home décor, accessory, and gift stores (105).
Kelly says this is not surprising, with these types of companies getting so many complaints because they are very large businesses. “They move a lot of items and have a lot of customers. With these types of big organizations you would expect them to get more complaints. It doesn’t mean they’re bad businesses.” As far as large online dealers go, Kelly says complaints tend to be about customers not getting what they ordered. “They’re big stores with lots of inventory.”
Moving companies had 141 complaints, and Kelly says this was “no surprise to me. There’s a very low barrier for entry [to the moving business]; anyone with a truck can do it. And it’s not a well-regulated industry.” Many complaints, he says, come from movers demanding a large up-front deposit. “You’re not supposed to pay up-front, and any deposit should be fairly low.” Delivery and timing issues with movers are another source of complaints.
Collection agencies had 103 complaints, while there were 102 complaints about plumbers. “I was kind of surprised to see plumbers in the top 10,” says Kelly. “What it comes down to, a lot of the time, is contracts, and people not getting things in writing on company letterhead. And we look for a pattern of a company with specific complaints.”
Advance fee loan companies—not to be confused with payday loan companies, which are highly regulated—rounded out the top 10 list with 95 complaints. “These companies ask for a big percentage of what you’re asking for [as a loan] up front, then never send the money. Their typical target is people who don’t qualify for loans from their bank. The loan never materializes, and they don’t answer the phone.”
Kelly says that the BBB maintains a database of 98,000 B.C. businesses that consumers can access for information, and that in 2016 the database received more than two million inquiries. “Generally people are looking to make sure they hire the best people for the job.” Various types of contractors (roofing, renovation, heating, landscape, and general); movers; plumbers; used car dealers; car repairers; and painters were the 10 top businesses searched in 2016.
“The number of inquiries [to the BBB website] is rising 15 to 20 per cent a year, which has been a pattern over the last two years,” says Kelly. “More people are coming to see us as a legitimate resource, and that’s making us feel a lot more relevant.”