BY CANDACE ROULO
Of CONTRACTOR's staff

VENICE, FLA. – Contractors can now warn fellow industry professionals about potential problem customers on www.businessbeware.biz, a Web site forum created in the spring of 2008 by Robert Bodi, an independent contractor and owner of Rainmaster LLC, an irrigation company here, and his daughter, Ashley Bodi.

Bodi decided to create the Web site after he found out that a friend of his in the same business dealt with the same customer that didn’t pay either of them for the same service.

"At this time I knew it would be a great idea to have a database of these types of customers for any business or contractor to use to prevent this type of thing from happening to them again,” said Bodi.

In order to post a complaint about a customer, a contractor needs to be a member of the Web site community. The membership costs $5 per year. Anyone signing up for a membership must give his business license number. Once a member, a contractor can file complaints about problem customers with whom they have dealt.

“This is perfectly legitimate, and to make this type of network work, you need enough participation in local communities,” noted Dave Heimer, chief operating officer of the Service Roundtable.

When posting a complaint, contractors can enter the customer’s first and last name, street address, county, zip-code and state. Members can also search the database by zip-code and county to see complaints that were filed. Just recently, Canada was added to the database, so contractors can search by provinces.

“It's great because any business can use it to see what customers are causing problems,” commented Daniel Brown, who is a distributor of construction equipment and member of Businessbeware.biz. “It's where you can actually interact with people in your area and help each other out with your business. I don't know of any other site like this out there where it's actually truly for the business.”

According to Ashley Bodi, the Web site has approximately 650 business and contractor members that are located across the U.S. and has received 60,000 page hits since its inception.

“We have looked into the idea of creating something to be sent out to the customer since we are starting to grow fast, but at the same time this is more for businesses,” said Ashley Bodi.

It is stated on the Web site that the person who files a complaint (the business/contractor) is the one liable for the complaint – the person has to accept the terms of service before registering. This is one reason why contractors and businesses must give their license number when registering as a member.

The Bodis research every business/contractor signing up for membership to ensure they are not using fictitious information. They also make sure that contractors do not rant and rave about customers. If a member posts defamatory language, profanity or personal insults, it is edited or taken off the Web site.

“We let those know that we do have the right to remove the complaint if we feel it violates the terms or has foul language,” said Ashley Bodi. “Another thing that we did was charge the $5 fee, so it would weed out some of those who might not take the site seriously, which definitely helps.”

Even though many contractors may be comfortable posting complaints about customers, they need to be aware of the possible legalities involved. They are liable for posting incorrect, confidential or other wrongful information, just as if they did it on paper, according to Susan McGreevy, construction attorney at Stinson, Morrison, Hecker LLP, Kansas City, Mo., and legal columnist for CONTRACTOR magazine.

“I would be very careful about posting information since you have to expect that the person accused will want to tell his side too,” said McGreevy. “I would advise any specific client not to expose itself to liability unless there is some compelling interest that outweighs the risk.”