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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.
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.”
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?
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.