The Better Business Bureau has long been recognized as providing a verification process that provides a sense of security for consumers.
BBB On-line (www.bbbonline.org), a service entity of the Better Business Bureau, has taken steps to ensure that on-line companies adhere to the watchdog group's standards.
But are those standards the same for on-line retailers and technology-service providers?
VeriHost (www.verihost.com), a new organization that is creating its own seal of approval for Internet companies, feels that the process of approving high-technology companies takes more in-depth research.
Founded by technology leaders from the United States and Canada, VeriHost says its approval of a company will add an extra layer of confidence for small businesses that are shopping for a Web-site host or service provider.
"At question is whether a new company really has a [high-speed] line for enhanced connectivity as they advertise - something that the consumer cannot independently verify," said Clarence Briggs, VeriHost founder and president of Advanced Internet Technologies (http://aitcom.net) of Fayetteville, N.C.
"VeriHost is necessary because the BBB does not, to my knowledge, have the resources . . . to confirm a company's connectivity claims or test the performance of their network servers - technology-service issues that are paramount to the consumer."
Mr. Briggs said companies that seek the VeriHost seal agree that the verification company can set up an account with any provider - without the provider's knowledge - to verify claims or investigate complaints.
"Because we are in this business, we are able to better understand and discern whether a company is providing bad service or whether the consumer has expectations beyond present-day technology," Mr. Briggs said.
"Though we have not set ourselves up as dispute resolvers, if someone is having trouble with a VeriHost-approved provider, we would want to take steps to ensure that the complaint is valid and, as reasonable, bring anything we find to the member company's attention," he said.
Still in its infancy, VeriHost requires out-of-pocket and time expenditures of its six founding members and board of directors. These heavy hitters include Ron Dunlap, director of marketing for Vermont Web-site host and design firm Burlee Networks (www.burlee.com); Joseph Kibur, chief operating officer and co-founder of Canadian Web host NetNation Communications (www.netnation.net); and Rob Laidlaw, founder of Web-hosting resource Top Hosts (www.tophosts.com).
For hosting companies that desire a VeriHost "Good-Internet Seal of Approval," the process includes completing an on-line application that requires fairly detailed financial and business-reference information, including that the applicant be registered with the Better Business Bureau.
Companies must also provide information on their technical features and specifications, including a very important service required by many retail small businesses with e-commerce needs, Secure Socket Layers and Pretty Good Privacy standards.
Other information requested includes whether the company is rated by Dunn and Bradstreet, as well as trademark, copyright or service-mark information, and whether it is a member of the local chamber of commerce - all milestones of an established business, Mr. Briggs said.
VeriHost requires a $150 application fee, compared with BBB Online's fees for up to $5,000 for the registration of a single domain. …