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General Mills Retracts Policy, But is This Just the Beginning?

April 29, 2014

Earlier this month General Mills updated its privacy policy to include what is known as “forced arbitration”. The company, who owns Nature Valley, Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, Progresso and countless other well-known treats, notified consumers of this change with a two-sentence alert at the top of these brands’ webpages. The new policy stated that if you are a United States citizen that participates in a General Mills contest, signs up for one of their many e-newsletters, “likes” the company on Facebook, interacts with the company on any of its social media platforms, downloads or prints a coupon, or redeems any promotion or offering, you forfeit your right to sue the company.

The following is an excerpt from the company’s now-retracted policy:

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.

 

The uproar and backlash that General Mills received when it announced their new policy forced them to retract it a few days later. In addition they issued an apology (to read the full apology, click here):

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.

On behalf of our company and our brands, we would also like to apologize. We’re sorry we even started down this path. And we do hope you’ll accept our apology. We also hope that you’ll continue to download product coupons, talk to us on social media, or look for recipes on our websites.

Although it is great that General Mills took responsibility and listened to its customers it seems like it is a battle the consumers are not going to win. “In two recent cases, AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion and American Express Company v. Italian Colors Restaurant, the Supreme Court held that mandatory-arbitration clauses- of the same substance as the mandatory-arbitration clause in General Mills’ change of terms- should be enforced against plaintiffs, even though doing so would make pursuing a legal claim so economically irrational that, in all likelihood, no cases would ever get brought.”

 

Source: The Atlantic and The New Yorker

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