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Researching a Company Part 2 - Finding Consumer Complaints and Corporate Documents

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Researching a Company Part 2 - Finding Consumer Complaints and Corporate Documents

By JamieD
Published: March 9, 2010

An essential aspect of running a business is verifying that your vendors and suppliers are up to par, since their standing can affect your operations and reputation. In Part One of the Researching a Company series, we provided a basic overview of options for researching another company. Here in part two, w;ve summed up additional resources you can use to find out more informationabout a business.

Research a Busines-s Consumer Protection Claims

Consumer protection agencies are valuable resources enacted to protect consumer rights against unfair business practices. These agencies are equipped to help consumer and business owners avoid working with illegitimate businesses and protect themselves against threats or scams.

The Federal Trade Commissio-s Bureau of Consumer Protection conducts investigations, sues companies and people who violate the law, develops rules to protect consumers, and educates consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities. For information on consumer protection claims in your area, contact your local FTC regional office.

Check a Busines's Standing with the Better Business Bureau

The purpose of the Better Business Bureau (BBB)* is to develop and promote a fair marketplace for both businesses and consumers. Although the BBB is not a governmental organization, i's widely considered a legitimate and popular business resource throughout the U.S.

The BBB provides a search tool that allows businesses to Check Out a Business or Charity. You can search for a business by name, business type, or by entering other identifying information such as a phone number or web address. This tool produces search results of BBB Accredited Businesses and details their status of accreditation standards.

Keep in mind that businesses are not required to seek accreditation from the Better Business Bureau. If a business is not listed in their directory, it does't mean that i's in poor standing' it simply means that the business has't sought out accreditation. For businesses that do apply for accreditation, BBB provides reports on legal actions against businesses and their owners alleging violations of government laws and regulations. In some cases, private disputes that do not necessarily violate actual laws, occur between businesses or between a business and their customers. These actions are generally not reported to the public and therefore will not be included on any reports.

Research a Busines's Corporate Documents

Although many business documents are maintained privately, some businesses are required to file documents with state and federal agencies that then become public information. Several databases maintain business documents on public record:

    EDGAR - Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system maintains forms filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC regulates the securities industry and requires publicly traded companies to file appropriate documentation. Although publicly traded companies account for only a small portion of small businesses, you may deal with suppliers or vendors that report to the SEC. You can use EDGAR to search for their public documents.

    State Corporate Records Offices allow businesses to search for documents that are on public record. Standards for public record classification vary from state to state, as well as the availability to search documents online. Because of this variance, there is no standard process for finding public documents. Begin by searching the business in questio's state Division of Revenue or Division of Corporations office. Access a state government's main business portal, and find contact information for state government agencies on Business.gov.

    Share Tips for Researching a Business in the Community

    As members of the small business community, we'd like to utilize you as a resource! We hope you'll help other business owners employ valuable verification practices by sharing your expertise with other Community members in this discussion:

    What does your business do to research another business? What experiences have you had with establishing a business's legitimacy? What techniques would you recommend to another business owner?

    * Directs user to a non-government website.

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