by Tony Novak, CPA, MBA, MT updated January 21, 2015
This page is updated to communicate details of the "on again / off again" relationship that I've had with the BBB over several decades. I removed the BBB logo from all my online sites and profiles but I am taking this additional step to avoid any possibility of problem with improper implied use of the BBB affiliation and logo. Some pre-printed or published materials may still be in circulation that include outdated BBB affiliation information.
I first became a small business member of the Better Business Bureau in 1987 and several of my affiliated businesses have also been members. I participated in the BBB Online Reliability Program for certification of web-based businesses shortly after my initial membership. The BBB no longer offers the Online reliability Program. For many years I worked for BBB accredited firms or was an individual regular accredited business member with an A+ rating. In September 2013 the BBB put my rating under review without notification or external provocation just before I was scheduled to give a major presentation to New York area media that was sponsored by the state CPA association. I was frustrated that they had not bothered to bring any concern to my attention before pulling the rating at such an awkward moment. A BBB official later said that their action was generated internally by BBB staff in response to an interview I gave to Yahoo Finance in the summer of 2013.
The BBB staff questions related to their interpretations of provisions included in the Affordable Care Act and my related roles as an independent adviser not affiliated with any government entity or health care or insurance entity. A copy of the BBB inquiry and my frustrated responses are available on my personal blog. While I appreciate the agency's attempt to protect the public from scams, their ignorance of the details of the Affordable Care Act did not justify the actions in suspending my A+ rating precisely at the time when expertise on ACA was most needed by small businesses.
I resigned my BBB membership in protest to the tactic that I called "shoot first and ask questions later" in November 2013 and the BBB changed my online business listing from "accredited" to "not accredited". A copy of that resignation letter is available here.
The BBB restored the A+ business rating in November 2014. (Again, I want to emphasize that I have never been the subject of any consumer or regulator complaint in my 30+ business history).
The current BBB online listing indicates that my business provides insurance and some types of employee benefits plans that were actually discontinued or were made obsolete by the Affordable Care Act in 2010. I provided updated information on at least two different dates but the BBB web site is still inaccurate. The BBB online report still also confirms no complaints; they have never received a consumer complaint about me or my services.
In the fall of 2014 the BBB solicited my application for reactivation by telephone. I agreed and paid the fee. As of January 21, 2015 - after the opening of the 2015 tax filing season - the BBB web site status was still not updated to accredited member status. BBB did not respond to multiple calls and emails asking about the status of the web site accreditation listing. I cancelled my application for reactivation with a message that i may consider rejoining next season. As a practical matter, it just makes no sense for an accountant likely me to join after the tax season's online advertising is already published.
So just to be perfectly clear: I am not a BBB accredited member. Any reference to this accreditation is simply an out-of-date publication and I will remove the reference as soon as I become aware of it if this removal/update action is within my power to do so. Some materials sold or transferred with the BBB reference included as part of the author's biography are no longer within my possession.
Opinions expressed are the solely those of the author and do not represent the position of any other person, company or entity mentioned in the article. Information is from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed. Any accounting, business or tax advice contained in this communication, including attachments and enclosures, is not intended as a thorough, in-depth analysis of specific issues or a substitute for a formal opinion, nor is it sufficient to avoid tax-related penalties. Tony Novak operates as an independent adviser under the trademarks "Freedom Benefits", "OnlineAdviser" and "OnlineNavigator" but is not a representative, agent, broker, producer or navigator for any securities broker dealer firm, federal or state health insurance marketplace or qualified health plan carrier. He has no financial position in any stocks mentioned. Novak does work as an accountant, agent, adviser, writer, consultant, marketer, reviewer, endorser, producer, lead generator or referrer to other companies including the companies listed in the articles on this web site.