General Mills has put language on its website to let consumers know that they're giving up their right to sue the firm if they download coupons, “join” it in online communities like Facebook, enter company-sponsored sweepstakes or contests or interact with it in a variety of other ways, says The New York Times.
A growing number of companies has adopted similar policies over the years, but legal experts say a food company trying to limit its customers’ ability to litigate against it raises the stakes in a new way.
“When you’re talking about food, you’re also talking about things that can kill people,” says Scott Nelson, a lawyer at Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy group.
“There is a huge difference in the stakes, between the benefit you’re getting from this supposed contract you’re entering into by, say, using the company’s website to download a coupon, and the rights they’re saying you’re giving up," he says. That makes this agreement a lot broader than others out there.”
General Mills says in a statement: “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.”