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I want to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. What type of service should I expect?
-E. Hutchinson, Bronx, New York

You can expect the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to assist you in dispute resolution-a term used to describe various techniques the Bureau uses to resolve conflicts. In conciliation, for example, the BBB helps facilitate communication between the two conflicting parties-the customer and the business-by objectively sharing their viewpoints. Many disputes end easily and quickly under this process.

The BBB also offers mediation under the supervision of a professionally trained mediator to help the customer and the business agree on a mutually beneficial remedy. This process could offer a win-win solution to more complicated issues.

Another alternative, arbitration, enables parties to state their views, offer evidence at a hearing and agree to abide by the decision of an impartial, professionally trained arbitrator. All of these alternatives are low cost and user-friendly.

Nevertheless, it’s best to turn to the BBB before you make a purchase. You can contact your local bureau or visit the Website (www.bbb.org) to locate the BBB in your area and obtain a reliability report. This record, which tracks information over a three-year period, tells you how long the company has been in business, the length of time the BBB has known about the firm, whether it has any complaints lodged against it and indicates if the company is a member of the BBB. The report also details information about any enforcement actions taken by a government agency such as the state attorney general or the Federal Trade Commission.

Mail your consumer questions to Ask Your Advocate, black enterprise, 130 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011, or send an e-mail to brownmr@blackenterprise.com.

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