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'Like' a Cheerios Page and You Give Up the Right To Sue

By Barry Levine
April 18, 2014 10:32AM

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A new General Mills Terms of Use policy would have required one-on-one arbitration if, for instance, a consumer ate a poisoned product that a worker in the company's factory deliberately tampered with. General Mills reversed its new policy after encountering a tidal wave of protest in the media and on social networks.
 


By downloading a coupon or even "Liking" a product page on Facebook, you give up your right to sue. That counter-intuitive obligation was the most recent version of an increasingly popular strategy by General Mills and other corporations to keep customers from suing them with language in its legal Terms of Use. The company reversed that policy this week after a wave of protest in the media and on social networks.

As first reported in The New York Times, the food giant put language on its Web site that virtually any consumer acceptance of a General Mills offer meant that the right to sue or participate in a class action was waived in favor of mandatory, one-to-company arbitration. In addition to downloading a coupon, a consumer could be required to accept this condition by liking a General Mills product on Facebook, entering one of the company's contests, or anything else that might be couched as a benefit from the company.

The specific new Web site language read in part:

"In exchange for the benefits, discounts, content, features, services, or other offerings that you receive or have access to by using our Web sites, joining our sites as a member, joining our online community, subscribing to our e-mail newsletters, downloading or printing a digital coupon, entering a sweepstakes or contest, redeeming a promotional offer, or otherwise participating in any other General Mills offering, you are agreeing to these terms."

The Fine Print

In fact, the Times noted that the new privacy language appeared to indicate that even buying one of the products from General Mills' many brands -- which include Betty Crocker and Cheerios -- could similarly mean an acceptance of such terms.

The new policy would have required one-on-one arbitration if, for instance, a customer with a life-threatening allergy ate that ingredient in a not-well-labeled product, or if you ate a poisoned product which a worker in the company's factory deliberately tampered with. In addition to requiring arbitration, it would have forbidden consumers from joining together to save legal costs by participating in a class-action lawsuit.

The policy change last week raised a widespread consumer outcry and calls for a boycott of General Mills products. The company, caught off-guard by the reaction, on Monday retracted the new policy.

"As has been widely reported, General Mills recently posted a revised set of legal terms on our websites," a General Mills spokeswoman wrote on a company blog. "Those terms -- and our intentions -- were widely misread, causing concern among consumers. So we’ve listened -- and we’re changing them back to what they were before." (continued...)

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Lord Denning:

Posted: 2014-04-19 @ 8:55am PT
This will backfire on the greedy corporations. Not even a big red flag next to the questionable kontractual clauses will save them from the wrath of the courts. Judges will see through their obvious attempt to put themselves above the law. I can't wait to see the first class action going forward, the clause being raised, and the judge voiding it on the basis that it defeats the purpose of class action law.



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