BBB arbitration is a good option if you can get it

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If you have a dispute with a company, it's a good move to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau but if you can't reach a resolution you may be eligible for a more advanced complaint service.

It's called binding arbitration. It's a free service to consumers. You can't request it; the BBB must offer arbitration to you and the company. But if they do, it's a good option because if you win, it gives you something tangible you can use later in court.

Joanne Horenstein says she recently had to spring for a new TV because her old one was damaged during a move and no longer functions. DiMura's Moving Service didn't agree with her claim.

"He said, 'I didn't break it, but I'm a nice guy; I'll give you another television, a replacement television,'" Horenstein said.

Horenstein says the replacement was unacceptable and she reached an impasse with Mr. DiMura. She filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and when the normal mediation process didn't bring a resolution, the organization offered a different complaint service - binding arbitration.

"We would have a neutral party to hear both sides who would come to a decision; it was in their hands," Horenstein said.

Consumers can't demand arbitration but if the BBB offers it, and both sides accept, they're bound by the decision (if the consumer accepts the arbitrator's decision then the business is bound by it). DiMura offered to make a one-time payment of $350; both parties signed in agreement, and the arbitrator documented the decision. Horenstein says the process was very efficient.

"It was neutral, it was calm. I had to get my act together and think clearly; I had to present my case," Horenstein said.

Six months later, DiMura still hasn't paid the $350 but Horenstein now has a legally binding agreement she can use to sue and almost surely win. She recommends jumping at arbitration if the BBB offers it.

"My guy was fair, he was calm. He didn't let him get away with anything; he didn't let me get away with anything," Horenstein said.

The arbitration decision does not get filed with any court but if the company agrees to pay and doesn't, you now have irrefutable proof to take into small claims court.

I called DiMura and reminded him that his legally-binding commitment was long past due. He said he'd been having some financial problems but they were now in the past. He then delivered the $350 in cash to Horenstein and fulfilled his obligation.

Click here to learn more about the BBB's arbitration service.

  • Visit
  • Click on MENU icon in upper right-hand corner
  • At bottom of next page, click on LEARN ABOUT BBB ARBITRATION

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