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When most people think of the Better Business Bureau, they think of consumer protection. After all, the BBB has a handy Scam Tracker to root out shady businesses and sales tactics. But the BBB might be most famous for its business rating system, where it provides grades for local shops and national chains based, ostensibly, on the level of customer service and amount of customer complaints.
Or perhaps infamous is the proper term there, after the BBB was nabbed in a pay-for-play scheme, handing out A's to stores that paid annual membership fees and F's to those that didn't. One of those high grades, an A-, went to a dummy company calling itself Hamas after the Palestinian nationalist group designated by many governments as a terrorist organization. Meanwhile, Leif's Auto Collision Centers -- "far and away the largest auto collision repair provider in Oregon and potentially the largest in the country" -- got an F. And now Leif's is suing the BBB to get its revenge and reputation back.
Leif's lawsuit mirrors the 2010 allegations, saying that the BBB's F grade was solely because it refused to pay membership dues, and amounted to defamation and tortuous interference with business. The suit is filed against the Better Business Bureau Northwest, its parent company, and two managers in the BBB's northwest bureau.
The auto repair shop claims it had just 57 complaints in the last three years, out of a total of 130,000 customers (or a 99.9 percent approval rating). On the other hand, "Hamas (a terrorist group) and other fictitious organizations that conducted no business but paid their dues received an A- or better from the BBB." Courthouse News Service reports Leif's is looking for at least $5 million in damages along with an injunction ordering the BBB to remove its negative rating from the internet.
But Leif's is far from the only company to be dinged for not paying the BBB's accreditation fees. According to a previous lawsuit, "Chef Wolfgang Puck said that some of his businesses receive F letter grades because he refuses to pay the BBB's membership fees." And even Starbucks was given a failing grade, presumably for also failing to pay up.
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