General Mills: If you 'like' us, don't sue us

The company is attempting to block lawsuits with a new policy that lawyers are already questioning.

By MSN Money Partner Apr 17, 2014 1:52PM
General Mills brand cereal Cheerios are displayed on a supermarket
© Stephen Hilger/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy Michelle Coffey, MarketWatch

If you like Cheerios, you may want to keep it to yourself.


General Mills (GIS), maker of Lucky Charms and the Betty Crocker and Pillsbury brands, has installed a new privacy policy in which consumers who engage with its brands online, including liking them on Facebook or downloading coupons, withdraw their legal right to sue the company.


The Fortune 500 powerhouse notes a change in legal terms, warning on its website:

"We've updated our Privacy Policy. Please note we also have new Legal Terms which require all disputes related to the purchase or use of any General Mills product or service to be resolved through binding arbitration."

So consumers who follow General Mills brands on social networks, subscribe to newsletters, enter sweepstakes, print coupons or benefit in any way using the site also enter a contract with the company, waiving all rights to future lawsuits.


General Mills even hinted that consumers who buy the products could be bound by those terms, according to The New York Times, who reached out to the company about its changes.


Food companies are increasingly facing more class-action lawsuits over labeling and ingredients. Last year, General Mills shelled out $8.5 million to settle a suit over how it labeled its Yoplait Yo-Plus yogurt. In 2012, two women sued the company over claims its Nature Valley products were 100% natural, alleging highly processed ingredients were used. That same year, it settled another suit over Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups, agreeing to remove the word "strawberry" from its packaging.


Credit-card and mobile-phone companies are known for placing airtight restrictions in contracts, but this may be the first instance of a major food manufacturer attempting to block lawsuits.


Lawyers told The New York Times that General Mills' new language will raise legal questions. And the next time it faces legal action, General Mills will likely need to prove the consumer had prior knowledge of the policy before a court can weigh in about whether the company can be sued, arbitration experts told the Times.


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Tags: GIS
246Comments
Apr 17, 2014 4:18PM
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First time I see "Terms of Service" on a cereal box is the last time I buy that cereal.
Apr 17, 2014 4:41PM
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Thanks for the alert.
Hey General Mills you won't be tricking me anymore.
I will quit using your products and boycott your firm.
I am concerned that you would stoop so low as to trick and trap customers into arbitration instead of having confidence in your products.
Should we not have the right to sue you if you make and market wrong products?
I'm certainly not going to support you.
You should spend your time making good products not protecting yourself from justified lawsuits.
As long as you have been in business if your still getting sued for stupid products your whole executive board, CEO and entire management team should be fired for incompetence.

Apr 17, 2014 2:05PM
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how can clicking a "like" button online be binding at all anywhere?

Apr 17, 2014 4:34PM
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Yet another reason to stay off of Facebook altogether.
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Maybe FB can add a "Hate" button?! How about if consumers have their own "Terms of Service" contract that favors them and holds the company to consumers' binding arbitration?

Apr 17, 2014 4:38PM
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Lawyers, judges and politicians are all criminals.
Apr 17, 2014 4:48PM
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By their logic, they can poison your kids and you the consumer will have no legal recourse. 
Is there a word for corporate terrorism? 
Apr 17, 2014 4:37PM
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Funny, good luck with that one...all the more reason to not "like" any company. You just get bombarded with junk mail anyway as your information is shared with the entire galaxy...
Apr 17, 2014 4:52PM
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Ah facebook.  Invented for convenience and turned into an international spy agency.  Awesome.  Good luck facebookers. 

Apr 17, 2014 4:39PM
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How is this even legal? I cannot believe this could hold up in the courts, but it's always the big corporations that win... I suppose if I send them a letter telling them what I think, that would be considered communication, which would be the same???
Apr 17, 2014 4:53PM
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When you have Big Corporations buying the votes of Congress and swaying legislation that favors the wealthy few over the majority and a judicial system where justice goes to the highest bidder then you have the basis for revolution.
Apr 17, 2014 4:47PM
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So we'd be entering a binding contract with the company, without being aware of it? How do they expect that to hold up in court? How about they just use some truth in advertising in the first place? Good thing I don't buy their crap anyway- most of it's not even real food.
Apr 17, 2014 5:18PM
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Loving how Anti-American, Anti-Consumer these people are becoming, writing language where they can do whatever the hell they want to you, but you can't sue them for it. Like for instance, buying a product, like a video game. Oh wait, you apparently don't own your game, just the license to play said game. Also, EULAs stating they can pretty much do whatever they want, whenever they want, and you can't file a class-action lawsuit against them.

I don't think they can get away with that, actually. Everyone deserves a right to a fair trial, it's a constitutional right, and this infringes on that. You'd think they think we live in China or something, where they have absolutely no rights or regulations, the corporate wet dream. Here's the thing General Mills: If you don't like our law system, GET THE HELL OUT OF AMERICA! We won't miss you.
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Guess they are getting ready for when they import cheap toxic Chinese made cereals they want to make sure noone can sue them when their family members die.

 

If you are going to make a bad product or advertise it as something it is not this is what happens

Apr 17, 2014 3:48PM
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Many companies try to use a privacy policy or having users sign a "terms and conditions" contract to legally protect themselves or most likely having people to sign a binding arbitration clause that almost always favors the corporation. 
Apr 17, 2014 5:07PM
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Guess they're more concerned with covering their legal butts than with having customers. Too bad- I liked their Cheerios and their whole grain use.  
Apr 17, 2014 5:05PM
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Where does General Mills even find the time to be concerned about Facebook?  I thought they were too busy trying desperately to squash any attempt in the U.S. to label their food products that contain GMOs.
Apr 17, 2014 2:13PM
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If you eat hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup, are you entitled to healthcare ?

If you say you love someone, does that mean they have to sleep with you ?

If you voted for Obama, can you still complain about the economy ?

Apr 17, 2014 2:36PM
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I guess you like them or you don't..?

Guess Lawyers don't, because it may hurt one of their "cash cows."

Especially if other companies start doing something similar...

Most of the suits are frivolous at best... 

Apr 17, 2014 4:58PM
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So can we sue them for sending us coupons in our daily mailings in attempting to lure the public to thier fake products?? Id like to refuse anything advertised from them since I wont be tempted to buy their decietful products...

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