When Does a “Like” Change Your Rights?


What if following a brand on social media meant you might lose your legal rights?

In a subtle move this week, General Mills, American cereal producer and owner of brands like Betty Crocker, quietly added language to their website indicating a change to their privacy policy.

What is the change? By downloading coupons, “joining” it in online communities like Facebook, entering a company-sponsored sweepstakes or contest, or interacting with the brand online, you can no longer sue the company. This would impose forced arbitration on consumers. The basis behind this is that by participating in these actions, you are receiving a benefit from the brand, and thus, have a relationship with them.

The exact language reads:

• 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.”)

Because the language as it stands is a bit ambiguous, many agree this may not stand up in court. Further, General Mill is not commenting currently than what is on their site. While this may be just some basic action GM is taking to protect their brand, it could also be an interesting precedent for larger brands.

Share your thoughts on this move with us below.

Image courtesy Eric Chan.

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