According to the New York Times, General Mills has a broad definition of what a “benefit” means. The company responsible for cereals like Cheerios and brands like Betty Crocker claims that individuals withdraw the right to sue if they download coupons, “like” the company on Facebook, enter General Mills sweepstakes, or otherwise interact with the company. Rather than entering a legal dispute, General Mills claims that problems should be solved through informal negotiation with the company, carried out via email or arbitration.
General Mills insists that it has been as transparent as possible regarding its new policy.
“While it rarely happens, arbitration is an efficient way to resolve disputes — and many companies take a similar approach. We even cover the cost of arbitration in most cases. So this is just a policy update, and we’ve tried to communicate it in a clear and visible way,” the company said in a statement.
RT reports that the company’s updated policy stems from the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the 2011 case AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, which ruled businesses could prevent multiple consumers from coming together to make fraudulent claims in a single arbitration.
It is difficult to determine exactly how General Mills’ new policy will be interpreted by the courts, and hopefully there’s no need for the legal action that would test those boundaries in the near future.