‘Like’ a Cheerios Page and You Give Up the Right To Sue

By downloading a coupon or even "Liking" a product page on Facebook, you give up your right to sue. That counter-intuitive obligation is the most recent version of an increasingly popular strategy by General Mills and other corporations to keep customers from suing them.

As first reported in The New York Times, the food giant now has language on its Web site that virtually any consumer acceptance of a General Mills offer means that the right to sue or participate in a class action has been waived in favor of mandatory, one-to-company arbitration. In addition to downloading a coupon, a consumer could be required to accept this condition by liking a General Mills product on Facebook, entering one of the company's contests, or anything else that might be couched as a benefit from the company.

The specific new Web site language reads in part:

"In exchange for the benefits, discounts, content, features, services, or other offerings that you receive or have access to by using our Web sites, joining our sites as a member, joining our online community, subscribing to our e-mail 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."

The Fine Print

In fact, the Times noted that the new privacy language appears to indicate that even buying one of the products from General Mills' many brands -- which include Betty Crocker and Cheerios -- could similarly mean an acceptance of such terms.

The new policy would require one-on-one arbitration if, for instance, a customer with a life-threatening allergy ate that ingredient in a not-well-labeled product, or if you ate a poisoned product which a worker in the company's factory deliberately tampered with. In addition to requiring arbitration, it would forbid...

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