A federal lawsuit has been fired against the Better Business Bureau of Central Florida by the law form of KEL. The lawsuit argues the rating system of the Better Business Bureau while also accusing it of false advertisements. The lawsuit is asking for unknown damages because of business defamation.
The law firm, Kaufman, Englett and Lynd, was awarded a rating of an ‘F’ in 2011 by the Better Business Bureau because of its failure to “to resolve the underlying cause of a pattern of (client) complaints.” Because of pressure from the Better Business Bureau, the law firm decided to remove itself from the accreditation program of the organization, the first time a law firm did this in the history of the Better Business Bureau.
The lawsuit was filed in January in a federal court in Orlando alleging that the Better Business Bureau has a flawed and erroneous rating system. The lawsuit also states that the rating system is misleading when it comes to the supposed unbiased ratings issued in promotional items.
From the lawsuit: “The Better Business Bureau intentionally provides biased and inconsistent ratings of businesses, specifically favoring businesses that have chosen to pay money to and participate in the Defendants own accreditation program.” Others named as defendants in the lawsuit include the chief of the Better Business Bureau, Judy Pepper, and the Council of Better Business Bureaus Inc. from Washington D.C. Court records show that this is the first time in over ten years that the Central Florida BBB has been sued and it is the third time the BBB has been sued in the previous 20 years.
The BBB said that the law firm was issued a poor rating because of multiple unresolved complaints from clients dealing with loan modification or foreclosure defenses. These clients allege that the law firm took thousands of dollars from them without providing much help. The law firm is also being investigated by the Florida Bar.
“Many of the complaints forwarded to the BBB were baseless in nature and only lodged as an attempt by clients to harass KEL for situations in which the clients had unreasonable expectations,” the lawsuit stated.
The law firm also alleges that because of false information released by the BBB, the firm’s business was hurt because prospective clients were discouraged by that information. The lawsuit also states that over 500 clients have called the law firm looking for refunds ever since the rating was issued by the BBB.
A professor for the University of Florida Levin College of Law, Joseph W. Little, said the following:
“The BBB has common law right to express fair comment and honest opinion based on true facts. If it does that, then it is protected speech and opinion, even though it is not the opinion the law firm would want them to have.”