General Mills Ditches Controversial Right To Sue Policy

General Mills has reversed a legal policy that eliminated some customers' right to sue the company.
Posted at 4:19 PM, Apr 20, 2014

​If you've recently downloaded an online coupon for a box of Lucky Charms you might have opened yourself up to an unlucky legal situation.

Tucked away in the fine print of its parent company's new privacy policy was language informing consumers if they’d entered into certain forms of online engagement with General Mills they had given up their right to ever sue the company. (Via Cheerios )

It read in part:  “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.”  

Analysts interpreted that to mean interacting with General Mills on Twitter, liking its Facebook page, entering in a sweepstakes or downloading online coupons.

In other words, the change in legal terms meant those customers, likely without even realizing it, were agreeing to settle any disputes before an independent arbitrator as opposed to in front of a judge or jury.

A legal expert raised an interesting point to The New York Times, which broke the story. Could this mean, theoretically, the company, was legally protected if an employee deliberately put ground glass in a box of cereal? 

Naturally, that prospect caused outrage among consumers on social media. (Via Twitter / @scalzi, Twitter / @BillMcGev, Twitter / @JoeWatchesTV, Twitter / @johneriutta)

And so, General Mills after a few days of bad press, backtracked, reverting back to its old policy. Still, the company stood by its old policy as cost-effective, explaining on its blog  “We rarely have disputes with consumers — and arbitration would have simply streamlined how complaints are handled.” Still, it added, We’re sorry we even started down this path."

But the company wasn't alone. Ever since the Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that corporations could avoid class actions suits by including such language, more have been doing so.  

A writer at MSNBC explains, “without even realizing it, consumers and employees attempting to sue after being harmed by a corporation may find that they’ve already signed away their legal rights to do so.”

In 2012, General Mills was sued over claims it tricked customers into believing its fruit snacks were made with real fruit. In a settlement, the company agreed to remove the word "strawberry" from the label.