10/02/2012 03:10 pm ET Updated Oct 02, 2012 Lets Business Owners Blacklist Bad Customers

A new website wants to help small companies fight back -- against their customers.

Newly launched lets business owners blacklist bad clients. Think of it as a Yelp for entrepreneurs. But instead of reviewing diners and stores, the community gives feedback on how promptly a customer pays or how a customer treats your staff.

For small companies, such intel is badly needed, according to the site’s founder, Peter Robideau, who also runs an eight-person tech support startup.

“I have 7,000 customers on Long Island and most of them are great,” Robideau tells Bloomberg BusinessWeek. “But there are a handful out there who are repeat offenders, and they only do it to small businesses because they know you don’t have a room full of lawyers to sue them. They make you wonder why you’re in business in the first place.”

As BusinessWeek notes, slow-paying customers are a particularly big problem for small firms. In a survey of 750 business owners released by Citibank last month, 30 percent said late or non-payments were their biggest cash-flow challenge. In a separate report last year by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, 20 percent of entrepreneurs said delinquencies were getting worse.

Reviews of customers on BadConsumers are private, and can only be seen by the site’s members, who are all business owners or employees. “The website and database are designed exclusively for use by businesses, not individuals,” the site says. But when a business submits a complaint and includes a customer’s email, the site automatically notifies the customer and allows them to post a reply to the complaint.

Not surprisingly, BadConsumers attempt to expose people who have stiffed small firms has drawn the ire of consumer protection groups.

Better Business Bureau spokeswoman Katherine Hutt told BusinessWeek that “a bad customers list is a bad idea,” and little more than “public shaming device.”

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