gmmRecently, General Mills quietly added language to its website in order to passively alert consumers that they would be giving up their right to sue the company if they interacted with the company in a variety of ways.

General Mills markets some of the world’s most well-known and trusted brands: Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Nature Valley, Yoplait, Old El Paso, Progresso, Hamburger Helper, Toaster Strudel, Gold Medal, Bisquick, Totino’s, Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms, Fiber One, Chex and Box Tops For Education. Now, if you download any coupons from the site, or enter a company-sponsored sweepstakes or contest, or engage in any of the number of ways that you can interact with the company, you will then surrender your legal rights and be bound their newly updated service terms.

By simply using the General Mills Site, or even ‘liking’ their page on Facebook, you also signify your consent to all of the new terms of its Privacy Policy and the site’s Legal Terms. Following their new updates, within the terms of use, they’ve done a crafty job at discretely placing their protective guidelines which will hinder any effort to bring legal action against them in the future.

“These terms are a binding legal agreement (“Agreement”) between you and General Mills. In exchange for the benefits, discounts, content, features, services, or other offerings that you receive or have access to by using our websites, joining our sites as a member, joining our online community, subscribing to our email newsletters, downloading or printing a digital coupon, entering a sweepstakes or contest, redeeming a promotional offer, or otherwise participating in any other General Mills offering, you are agreeing to these terms.”

chThe fine print (corporate protection) is intended to be interpreted broadly so as to encompass each and every dispute or claim that will arise from your purchase or use of any General Mills product or service for personal or household use.

“Any dispute or claim made by you against General Mills… regardless of whether such dispute or claim is based in contract, tort, statute, fraud, misrepresentation, or any other legal theory will be resolved by informal negotiations or through binding arbitration…”

If you wish to terminate the agreement with them, they detail how you can go about doing so on their website under the Terms of Use. The change in the company’s legal terms comes shortly after a judge in California refused to dismiss a case that had been brought against the company by disgruntled consumers. This fueled the new move for General Mills to become one of the first, if not the first, major food companies to seek to impose what legal experts call “forced arbitration” on consumers. It’s expected that other companies may look to follow suit and take part in this growing trend. And we, as consumers, should avoid condoning such behavior by not buying from companies pursuing such a policy.