Legal Issues

Dislike: If You 'Like' General Mills on Facebook, You Can't Sue the Company

Former West Coast Editor
3 min read

Sorry, folks. If you “like” us on Facebook, you can’t sue us.

That soggy little spoonful of crazy is pretty much what American food giant General Mills slyly just added to its privacy policy. Well, not verbatim, but pretty close. 

That’s right. If you're a U.S. citizen who likes the company on Facebook, signs up for one of its e-newsletters or interacts with it on various other online platforms like Twitter, you’re out of legal luck. If you download a General Mills coupon or enter one of its contests, you're also up the creek with no legal recourse. '

Bottom line: If you’re guilty of getting social with the company online, facing binding arbitration and informal negotiation are now the only choices you get. The first of which is almost unheard of in the major food industry.

Related: Sriracha Factory Given 90-Day Ultimatum as Spicy Fumes Declared a 'Public Nuisance'

Then again, nothing about General Mills’ overhauled legal and privacy rules is business-as-usual. Its new social media stipulation-laden legal terms tweaks are believed to be what The New York Times calls “one of the first, if not the first” of their kind in the corporate food industry.

So far, we haven’t been able to dig up similar privacy and legal policy verbiage from comparable food manufacturers or other unrelated large companies that even come close. But we expect similar mega food manufacturers and corporations in other industries will soon follow in General Mills’ big footsteps. 

The sugary cereal maker’s sneaky new language was rolled out to no doubt help it avoid pricey court battles, which it's no stranger to in its 148-year history.

Last March a judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought upon General Mills by two mothers who accused it of falsely marketing its highly-processed Nature Valley products as “natural” foods. Also, the company paid a whopping $8.5 million last year to settle a case involving deceptive digestive health claims about its Yoplait Yo-Plus probiotic yogurt.

Related: Bankrupt Quiznos Settles With Franchisees in Cost Dispute

The Minneapolis-based Fortune 500 company notified customers of its new privacy policy and legal terms by slapping two short sentences at the very top of the main pages of its dozens of branded websites. The notices, highlighted in grey, include red-colored links to abbreviated versions of its revamped privacy and legal rules, which were overhauled

There’s one big exception to the controversial new rules, though. According to General Mills, its child-targeted websites and promotions fall under a different privacy policy. The new, not necessarily improved privacy policy applies to General Mills-made Gold Medal flour, Cheerios cereal, Pillsbury and Betty Crocker goodies, Progresso soups, Old El Paso Mexican-inspired sauces and snacks, Green Giant veggies and dozens of other incredibly popular processed food brands most Americans dine on regularly or have at least heard of.

What’s next? Surgeons making it impossible for patients they left sponges in -- who also happened to like their Facebook page -- to sue? 

Related: Writing Social Media Guidelines for Your Company? Tread Carefully.

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