Better Business Bureau Internet assurance program

It’s been referred to as the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for the Internet.

And Randall Hoth hopes it catches on.

It’s BBBOnLine, a program aimed at helping assure consumers of the reliability of commercial Websites.

“The marketing volume on the Internet increases each day, yet no one had developed a method of separating the legitimate online offers from the dubious ones,” says Hoth, president of the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin, based in Milwaukee.

BBBOnLine is the solution, he believes.

“Our new service will provide online marketers with the means to inform consumers about their commitment to ethical business and advertising practices.”

Companies that commit to the BBBOnLine program standards will be authorized to display a BBBOnLine seal on their Website and in the Website advertising.

Included in the review process is an onsite visit to the company.

“This onsite visit to the company’s physical premises is designed to ascertain that the Web site is supported by a functioning business and is not simply a façade,” Hoth said. “Furthermore, BBB will be monitoring advertising and use of the seal by BBBOnLine participants in our service area.”

A click on the BBBOnLine seal will take the Web browser to a confirmation page demonstrating that the company is an authorized participant in the program. For the business, the seal offers a mark of reliability, Hoth says.

“BBBOnLine also benefits businesses seeking to portray reliability and promote consumer confidence in the Web shopping venue,” he says, noting that the BBB name is well-known and respected among consumers.

Hoth sees the service as a way that businesses can self-regulate their Web-based operations.

“All companies should share an interest in demonstrating to consumers, regulatory authorities and the public that the business community can effectively self-regulate this new marketplace,” Hoth says. “If honest competitors do not quickly demonstrate that the online market is reliable, many consumers could be reluctant to try this new technology and the lost business opportunities could be staggering.”

Additional information on BBBOnLine is available at the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin online site at

April 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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