General Mills Clarifies New Legal Policies Barring Consumers from Suing
General Mills – a multibillion-dollar corporation and one of the world’s largest food companies – recently amended new legal policies that barred consumers who joined General Mills’ online communities from suing the company. In a statement issued last week, the company clarified that the policy did not apply to consumers who visit General Mills’ Facebook pages or Twitter accounts.
The amendment comes after considerable scrutiny of General Mills’ new legal policies. A recent New York Times article also criticized the food company’s attempts to void consumers’ right to sue when they interact with the company online. The policy requires these consumers to submit complaints via informal negotiations or arbitration.
A statement made by a General Mills spokesman last week clarified that “online communities” referred to in the policy refer only to online communities hosted by General Mills on its own websites. Consumers who like one of the company’s Facebook posts or retweet a post on Twitter would still have the right to sue. The policy would apply, however, to those who subscribe to one of General Mills’ publications or download coupons. Another tricky point is that if consumers wish to receive coupons in exchange for liking a brand on Facebook, they will also have to agree to the new terms and policies in order to get the coupon.
The spokesman also added that “the policy would not and does not preclude a consumer from pursuing a claim. It merely determines the forum for pursuing a claim. And arbitration is a straightforward and efficient way to resolve such disputes.”
Legal experts have commented that General Mills’ new legal policies are vague and that there are a number of actions consumers could engage in with the company – email lists, coupon offerings, etc. – that could subject them to this clause. Consumers have also expressed dissatisfaction with General Mills’ policies on online forums and Facebook postings. The problem, it seems, is that in its attempts to shield itself from costly litigations, General Mills gives consumers the sour taste of vague legal policies, lack of choice, and in certain circumstances, constricted legal recourse.
At Crary Buchanan, our Stuart attorneys have helped numerous individuals, families, and businesses with their commercial and civil litigation matters. While General Mills’ new policies highlight legal complexities created by the internet, they also demonstrate that consumers are still passionate about preserving their rights. If you have questions about your rights in a legal matter, litigation, or how our firm can help, call 772-287-2600.