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.

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Dave CherryCBS 5 Advocate Dave Cherry works to resolve your consumer problems and protect your money. If he can't help, he'll do his best to point you in the right direction.

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Dave Cherry
CBS 5 Advocate

Dave was born and raised in Philadelphia and considers himself one of the biggest Philly sports fans. At 6-feet, 5-inches, he's probably right! Dave started on a different career path before fulfilling his lifelong dream of reporting the news and helping consumers. Dave graduated from Philadelphia University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting; he later earned an MBA degree in Finance from Temple University in Philadelphia. Dave also spent ten years as Vice President and Director of Sales and Marketing for two of America's leading real estate franchise companies. Dave started his 21-year news career at WHP in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as news anchor and reporter, then moved to KOLD in Tucson, as the morning news anchor. From Tucson, he went to KRON in San Francisco as a freelance news reporter before moving east to COMCAST in Philadelphia as a general assignment reporter. In the fall of 2003, Dave moved west and joined KPNX in Phoenix and spent nine years as the station Call for Action Consumer Reporter. Through his on-air advocacy work in 2011, Dave and his team were able to help consumers save more than $1 million. Dave joined CBS 5 News as our CBS 5 Advocate in December 2012. Dave is a vegan and likes to eat the amazing vegan food prepared by his lovely wife, Carmen. Dave's also a big Bruce Springsteen fan (he's seen more than 70 shows!), the man who inspired him to learn the guitar. Besides playing many of the boss' songs, Dave writes and sings his own songs and recorded a CD of original music.

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