Cheerios maker digs deeper fine print hole: Protesting misinformation, GM offers another Gotcha

http://generalmills.com/Legal_Terms.aspx
http://generalmills.com/Legal_Terms.aspx

General Mills did the predictable thing today and, after refusing to answer questions from The New York Times, wrote a blog post criticizing the paper for getting the Cheerios story wrong yesterday. Feel free to believe the firm — and every other corporation — which tries to say that forcing consumers into binding arbitration and forbidding class action lawsuits is actually consumer friendly.  You’d be better off spending five minutes reading about binding arbitration and making up your own mind.

But in the company’s dismissive post about misinformation, it includes a heck of a Whopper.   If all this silly talk troubles you, writes PR rep Kristie Foster, you can simply wish it away!

“We also provide the opportunity to opt out. Just notify us by email of your wishes,” she writes.

Ah, if it were only as easy as wishing. Here’s what you have to do to opt out (as if anyone would do this).

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“You may terminate this Agreement by providing us with written notice of your desire to do so by emailing us at legal.terms@genmills.com.  Please include your first and last name and the year in which you were born in the email.”

Meanwhile, even such emailed wishes, like boxed of Cheerios, have an expiration date. The opt out is only as good as your last coupon, or email.  General Mills fine print is a bit like a monster in a horror flick that can keep coming back to life again and again.  Most digital interactions with the company will put the “contract” terms back in force.

Any such termination will not be valid if you remain (at that time) a user or member or any of our sites or communities, a subscriber to any of our emails, or a participant in any sweepstakes, contest, or other General Mills offering where these terms have been presented.”

So you might wish to opt out of the arbitration clause, but if you wish to download copies of coupons for Cheerios…or any one of thousands of products you may not realize are General Mills…you are back in the group that’s forced into arbitration again.

As Sarah Jones of the American Association for Justice tells me, “As we read it, you can opt-out via email  but the second you take an action that triggers the arbitration clause you are opted right back in.”

The first comment on Foster’s column says this: “How does this language not mean precluded from suing? ‘ Please note we also have new Legal Terms which require all disputes related to the purchase or use of any General Mills product or service to be resolved through binding arbitration,” and there’s only one response at the moment: “I guess they think we’re all stupid.”  I’ll leave that up to you. But really, read up on forced arbitration.

You can start with my story yesterday, and visit the website FairContracts.org for plenty of details  Here’s a pretty even-handed post from the National Association of Attorneys General about it.  Yes, class action lawyers can and do abuse the system, sometimes rewarding themselves with million-dollar fees while impacted consumers only get a coupon or a check worth pennies.  But forcing all consumers to surrender their rights to sue because of these coupon settlements is throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and it’s also a misdirection tactic by corporations simply trying to take your rights. Don’t fall for it.

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About Bob Sullivan 1638 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

2 Comments

  1. Wow, I thought I’d seen the worst on another website for Emotional Support
    Animals and their phony certification and registration Terms of Use. This
    language goes way beyond the pale on the General Mills’ website, forbidding
    anything they don’t even approve of, and putting their fist up your butt
    with a twist.

  2. The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights apply to everyone, and are the laws
    of the land, for government, individuals AND corporations. Federal Arbitration
    Act was meant to be applied to international shipments of goods, so disputes
    can be resolved more easily in case of loss during transit in international
    waters and airspaces. S2591-Arbitration Fairness Act of 2018 was supposed to
    address and make unlawful mandatory binding arbitration in consumer purchases
    of goods and services, and would have gone quite far in fixing this.

    Very soon, you won’t be able to buy a cup of coffee without being subject to
    this crap, and Waiver of Class Action. Look on the back of receipts of things
    you buy in stores, there you will see this included in Retail Terms of Sale.
    I did after buying a car and was shocked!

    This is all about businesses making themselves responsible for nothing, not
    answerable to anyone, not having to pay for anything they do wrong when they
    break the laws. Uber even tried imposing this on its employees for sexual
    harassment and rape cases against them. These are civil law, NOT criminal
    law terms. Corporations and their employees can and are subject to criminal
    law, and its about time people started taking them to the task in Federal
    and State courts, for violation of their civil rights (Binding Arbitration
    and Waiver of Class Action denies everyone due process and equal protection) and conspiracy to do the same. There is NO choice when they all do it and you can’t get any product or service without agreeing to it beforehand or as part of a transaction. You can’t opt out of either of them, and if you try to your
    account will be cancelled, and have to do without many products and services
    that most people need in daily life and take for granted!

    It’s all racketeering, in violation of the RICO statutes. Every website is
    now including Mandatory Binding Arbitration and Waiver of Class Action in
    the Terms of Use, Terms of Service, Privacy Policies. IF prosecuted for the
    criminal violations of laws they are committing, maybe then enough will go
    to jails and prisons where they belong, and have to pay restitution that’s
    based on actual past and future harm to consumers. Notice how Wells Fargo
    got a free pass on that one, and many more- NOT ONE employee was arrested, despite the thousands of counts of Federal and State law criminal violations openly committed by them and executives up the chains of command. Anyone else
    would be doing life in a Federal prison right now if they did the same things!

    File criminal complaints with your State and Federal prosecutors- someone will
    pick up on this and be willing to try and convict these criminals.

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