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“Liking” General Mills on Facebook Now Means You Can’t Sue Them, According to General Mills

This story has made my Lucky Charms taste a little less magically delicious.

General Mills

General Mills updated their online Privacy Policy to say that anyone who’s received any benefit from them — even downloading an online coupon, or liking their Facebook page — can’t sue them. Instead, they must settle any disputes about the purchase or use of any of their products in forced arbitration. Is this legal?

According to a 2011 Supreme Court ruling — yes. It is. The case AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion gave companies the right to stop customers from joining together for class-action lawsuits by including language in the contracts they sign. Check your phone contract. There’s likely something in there telling you you can’t sue your provider.

Here’s the exact language from the General Mills Privacy Policy update:

• New provisions relating to any disputes. These new provisions contain an agreement to resolve any and all disputes you may have with General Mills or any of its affiliated companies or brands contain through informal negotiations and, if these negotiations fail, through binding arbitration.  This includes disputes related to the purchase or use of any General Mills product or service.  All arbitrations will be conducted on an individual basis; you may not arbitrate as a member of a class.  Claims may not be brought in court (with the limited exception of small claims court in certain circumstances), nor may you participate in any class action litigation. (See Section 3, “Binding Arbitration.”)

• New provisions about how you become bound by these legal terms and how you can opt out of them. Your use of any of our sites or services, or participation in any other General Mills offering, means that you are agreeing to these Legal Terms.  You may terminate this agreement at time by notifying us by email of your intent to do so, but only if you also cease to participate in any of our offerings. (For details, see Section 1, “Your Agreement to these Terms” and Section 2, “Duration of this Agreement; Your Right to Terminate.”)

As General Mills also points out, these are only “brief summaries of some of the significant changes to the Privacy Policy and Legal terms.”

The key bit is in the second paragraph: “You may terminate this agreement at time by notifying us by email of your intent to do so, but only if you also cease to participate in any of our offerings.” We couldn’t find a contact email for General Mills, but there is an online form to email them here. They do note that emailing them isn’t enough. You also have to “cease to participate in any of our offerings.” They outline what exactly that means in their Legal Terms which can be read on their site.

Here’s the relevant section:

1.  Your agreement to these legal terms

These terms are a binding legal agreement (“Agreement”) between you and General Mills.  In exchange for the benefits, discounts, content, features, services, or other offerings that you receive or have access to by using our websites, joining our sites as a member, joining our online community, subscribing to our email 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.

Of course, your decision to do any of these things (i.e., to use or join our site or online community, to subscribe to our emails, to download or print a digital coupon, to enter a sweepstakes or contest, to take advantage of a promotional offer, or otherwise participate in any other General Mills offering) is entirely voluntary.  But if you choose to do any of these things, then you agree to be bound by this Agreement.

General Mills notified customers by adding a small gray banner to the top of their page today. I looked at their Facebook page for Lucky Charms, and there’s no mention of the change despite the new language applying to any of the General Mills brands. General Mills themselves doesn’t seem to have a Facebook page. Facebook has generated an automatic place holder for the brand with their Wikipedia page and a few related pages.

(General Mills via The New York Times, image via General Mills)

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