BBBOnLine, a subsidiary of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Arlington, VA, announced this week that its new online privacy seal program is open for business, and that it has started processing applications from Web sites seeking the trademark.
The program (www.bbbonline.org) will operate in coordination with local Better Business Bureaus to help provide Internet privacy information and create model privacy policies for businesses nationwide. The effort is being positioned as a different online seal program from its most likely competitor, TRUSTe (www.truste.org), as well as the more specialized American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Online (www.aicpa.org).
Companies displaying the BBBOnLine seal must be at least a year old, they must pass a more extensive background check in relation to fraud and government regulations and they must agree to participate in the bureau's arbitration program for settling customer complaints.
Many leaders within the senior levels of the American business community have reacted positively to the emergence of an additional, highly visible self-regulation watchdog, especially one associated with the Better Business Bureau and the brand equity it will leverage with its 86 years of experience in voluntary business self-regulation and dispute resolution. The annual fee is $150 for businesses with less than $1 million in sales per year.
At press time, BBBOnLine said it had about 300 companies that have begun the application process to join its program. However, Jason Catlett, president/CEO at Junkbusters Inc., Green Brook, NJ, an online privacy group, said that number is fairly small. He also questioned how well consumers understand what seal programs are intended to do as well as what messages businesses are going to leave with customers when they see different or multiple seals on the same Web site.
Russell Bodoff, senior vice president and chief operating officer at BBBOnLine, said it has a name behind it that consumers trust.
“Businesses of all sizes and from all sectors have expressed interest,” he said. “We expect our program to grow quickly.”