Business Takes Cudgel to BBB

CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) – The Better Business Bureau of Greater St. Louis violated its own grading system to discredit a remodeling business, the business claims in St. Louis County Court.

     Castle Rock Remodeling was a member of the BBB from 2002 to April 2010. It claims the BBB manipulated its own grading system by accepting illegitimate complaints that it knows does not meet its criteria; allowed complaints to remain on Castle Rock’s public record for more than 36 months; allowed customers to refile a complaint after the 36-month period ended; and arbitrarily set advertising standards and selectively applied those standards to Castle Rock.
     Castle Rock CEO Jamie Hart sat on the BBB’s dispute resolution committee. But Castle Rock claims the relationship went sour before 2009, when Hart became vocal about his opposition to the manner which complaints were being placed on Castle Rock’s public record.
     The BBB changed its rating system in January 2009 and gave Castle Rock a C+ based on 48 complaints, the lawsuit states.
     Castle Rock claims it reduced the number of complaints to 23 by January 2010, but its grade still remained C+.
     The grade prompted Hart to have a meeting with BBB officials, in which he claimed that the BBB was allowing complaints to stay on Castle Rock’s record beyond the 36-month reporting period; that Castle Rock had received only two complaints from Jan. 1, 2009 to Jan. 1, 2010 but its grade stayed at a C+; and that the BBB gave a competing company an A rating despite the company’s owner being barring from remodeling work in Missouri since 2006.
     “Rather than resolve the issues between Castle Rock and the BBB, the February meeting appeared to intensify the BBB’s campaign to discredit Castle Rock,” the complaint states. “On February 11, 2010, [BBB employee Scott] Thomas sent an e-mail to Hart advising him that Castle Rock ‘needed to resign its BBB accreditation.’ Hart was advised that he had a right to take the issue to a BBB ethics committee but that if the committee decided on expulsion, ‘a news warning stating such will be disseminated to local media and the fact your firm was expelled will be noted in your public report for a period of 12 months.’ Faced with this ominous threat, Hart chose to tender Castle Rock’s resignation from the BBB.”
     Castle Rock claims the BBB lowered its rating to a D+ in May 2010, even though no additional complaints had been made.
     After Hart complained, Castle Rock says the BBB told him the grade was not due to complaints but to “advertising concerns.”
     Castle Rock seeks an undetermined amount of actual and $500,000 in punitive damages, alleging libel, slander and interference with business expectancy and a ruling stating that it meets the BBB accreditation criteria and should have no less than an “A” rating. Castle Rock is represented by Al Johnson.

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