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General Mills Changes Policy After Internet Did Not 'Like' Its Plan To Remove Your Ability To Sue If You 'Liked' Its Facebook Page

from the just-trying-to-help dept

Following reports from last week about how cereal company General Mills had changed its privacy policy to preclude people from going to court if they so much as "liked" Cheerios on Twitter, the company has backtracked, changed its policy and admitted that consumers "didn't like" the new policy, though they insist it was all a misunderstanding:

As has been widely reported, General Mills recently posted a revised set of Legal Terms on our websites. Those terms – and our intentions – were widely misread, causing concern among consumers.

So we’ve listened – and we’re changing them back to what they were before.

We rarely have disputes with consumers – and arbitration would have simply streamlined how complaints are handled. Many companies do the same, and we felt it would be helpful.

But consumers didn’t like it.

After throwing in some legalese (and admitting their lawyers made them do that), General Mills' director of external communications Kirstie Foster explained:
We’ll just add that we never imagined this reaction. Similar terms are common in all sorts of consumer contracts, and arbitration clauses don’t cause anyone to waive a valid legal claim. They only specify a cost-effective means of resolving such matters. At no time was anyone ever precluded from suing us by purchasing one of our products at a store or liking one of our Facebook pages. That was either a mischaracterization – or just very misunderstood.

Not that any of that matters now.

On behalf of our company and our brands, we would also like to apologize. We’re sorry we even started down this path. And we do hope you’ll accept our apology. We also hope that you’ll continue to download product coupons, talk to us on social media, or look for recipes on our websites.
That first paragraph is not entirely accurate. While similar claims do exist in all sorts of consumer contracts (and, contrary to the statement, they often do cause people to effectively waive valid legal claims), they tend to exist in actual contracts. That is, not in a website privacy policy or terms of use -- which is what made General Mills' effort so notable.

Again, there is a simple solution to all of this. It should be clear that simply throwing up a "terms of use" page has no direct legal impact, especially if there's no evidence that anyone has actually read it.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Apr 21st, 2014 @ 2:09am

    Translation:

    'How were we to know someone would actually read the TOS for once?!'

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2014 @ 4:03am

    Hmmm... It looks like one part "Sorry we were caught" with two parts "You don't understand" with another part "Everyone is doing it" and you have a recipe for a very non-apology.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Violynne (profile), Apr 21st, 2014 @ 4:06am

    One step forward with its diverse family commercials, 15 steps back with its corporate behavior.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Apr 21st, 2014 @ 4:16am

    "That was either a mischaracterization or just very misunderstood."

    Or everyone at General Mills was to fscking stupid to understand how these words would read outside the fishbowl.
    Perhaps it might be best to fire the lawyers who suggested such a stupid idea and managed to undo much of the goodwill your corporation had managed to gain.

    Perhaps rather than trying to execute legal agreements to show us your intentions, perhaps being straightforward about those intentions would have been for the best. I doubt we misread your terms, I think you're just trying to salvage flushing a large amount of goodwill to make some lawyer happy.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2014 @ 4:18am

    Re:

    Part of a nutritious ass-kissing to start the day, indeed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Apr 21st, 2014 @ 4:57am

    I'll give them this much...

    At least they didn't double down on what they were doing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2014 @ 5:13am

    Not sure exactly what the EULA/TOS or whatever was attempting to protect against, small claims about actual product vs advertised product? However, I doubt that any words on paper, agreed to or not, could remove corporate liability for things like gross negligence resulting in adverse health issues or other such things.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Apr 21st, 2014 @ 6:20am

    Re:

    Yep.
    I mean its not like we have to ask nicely to get products that kill people recalled.
    We don't have to worry that corporations who pollute might declare bankruptcy to avoid having to clean up spills.
    We don't have to worry that unknown chemicals are being pumped into the ground and then dumped, because some words on paper call them trade secrets.

    Er... wait...

     

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  9.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Apr 21st, 2014 @ 6:21am

    Re: I'll give them this much...

    Oh I think they did. The you all are to stupid to understand our glorious terms means this isn't done. They will find a way to make sure they can find some way to shield themselves from the law, only now they might have to do it the old fashioned way and buy a congress critter.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2014 @ 6:23am

    Re:

    You are correct but not entirely the point.

    This is another case of Big Corp trying to slippery slope everyone into a huge 'give up our rights' campaign that has been running for several decades now.

    Does your government care to protect you? Nope... not even the Liberals whom spin their excessive tripe won't even bother to protect their ever so precious minorities here either.

    Left or Right... they want you to become a slave. You can already have your home invaded, arrested and strip searched and enema'd, shot dead, or beat dead by a cop if they 'think' you are up to no good. Hear much outcry by our precious leaders about it?

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2014 @ 6:39am

    "... not even the Liberals... won't even bother to protect their ever so precious minorities here either..."

    "Minorities", code for people-darker-than-me, must apparently all be "liberals". Marco Rubio? Impostor. Colin Powell, Herman Cain, Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas? Closeted libs, and, therefore, dirty liars.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2014 @ 6:45am

    Re:

    Well, that depends... According to the left if you are a minority you MUST be a liberal/democrat or your an Uncle Tom or a stupid shrill for the repukes.

    That's why I said "their minorities"

    I don't care if you are a minority a majority, or left or right. If your eyes are glazed over in support of your favored party as they wreck this nation, you are not worthy of freedom.

     

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  13.  
    icon
    limbodog (profile), Apr 21st, 2014 @ 6:57am

    Reading this comment means you agree to send me $100 every week for the rest of your life. This contract cannot be broken.

    (let me know if that works)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Apr 21st, 2014 @ 8:11am

    Re:

    > Reading this comment means you agree to

    May I suggest a minor change to your TOS:

    By loading this page, you agree to . . .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 21st, 2014 @ 8:13am

    Re: Re:

    "According to the left"

    Oh, please. Who is "the left" you're talking about? It sounds like you're talking about the made-up cartoon version of "the left" As Shown On TV.

    Can we please drop the phony left/right dichotomy already? It's distracting us from the real divisions in our nation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2014 @ 8:17am

    Re:

    Am I the only one who reads that 'filesystem check'ing stupid"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2014 @ 8:43am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Dropping it would be great, but generalizations work because in a lot of cases they are true.

    However, I am not the one promoting it. Just using it.

    I would love to see it go away, but you will never get rid of the diehard party animals, its human nature.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 21st, 2014 @ 8:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "I am not the one promoting it. Just using it."

    Using it is promoting it. Instead of using the term "the left" (and incorrectly at that), why not specify the actual group of people you're talking about?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2014 @ 9:37am

    In fairness to General Mills, the terms as I read them did not appear to apply to "liking".

    They did, however, apply to printing out coupons, and did include a secrecy clause, which makes the arbitration clause twice as bad.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    RoKphish (profile), Apr 21st, 2014 @ 9:45am

    Whos stupid now?

    Just another example of how a company regards their customers as being too stupid to notice. They were wrong.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2014 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Wait? Saying a label is promoting it? Don't get ahead of yourself, you are just trying to bring an argument into the weeds where you can weight it down with meaningless drivel. Try to be more intelligent, those trying to avoid labels the most are the ones usually guilty of their application. I try to avoid getting my feelings hurt when people sling names because I follow the logic that if you feel offended by something whether intended to offend you or not then you deserve the offense and are therefore an idiot to boot.

    The left, is generally a term used to describe people that are generally NOT moderate or generally NOT conservative. Typically a Democrat but not always, and possibly a Republican as well.

    People who tend to be more socialist than not. Everyone shares a socialist value or two myself included.

    I generally accept that the right (oops!) are typically so pro-business/free market that it negatively impacts this nation. And the point of my original argument is the the Left (Those in power that think more commonly on a socialistic level) seem to vote in people that "SAY" they are against this, while actually supporting it and bathing in the same corruption that the right does!

    No one (in gov left or right) are protecting people/organizations from putting in legal jargon limiting provisions people can use to attempt legal remedy when someone borks up. that was my point, the reason I picked on the left more that they are more responsible from a societal point of view because they talk against it so much while actually making it worse (most lawyers are left). I might be wrong, I might be right... but I believe I am right. There you can take me to task if you are so inclined.

     

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  22.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 21st, 2014 @ 10:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "you are just trying to bring an argument into the weeds where you can weight it down with meaningless drivel."

    Your mind-reading has failed you. I am trying to keep the argument out of the weeds of the left/right paradigm, because it's impossible to have an honest discussion of any topic whatsoever when it's cloaked in those terms.

    "Try to be more intelligent"

    OK, you got me. I was being an idiot by thinking that I could have an interesting conversation with you when it turns out you just want to sling insults around. Sorry about that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2014 @ 1:21pm

    surely the simple solution is to ensure your product is as good as it can be, as good as people want it and if it isn't, dont try to hide behind e 'terms of use' contract, saying to customers that if you have a complaint, tuff titty!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    Nick (profile), Apr 21st, 2014 @ 2:32pm

    "We rarely have disputes with consumers"

    and

    "and arbitration would have simply streamlined how complaints are handled."

    are NOT two sentences I ever expected to see connected by a single spacebar press.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Just me, Apr 21st, 2014 @ 6:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    He did specify the actual group: The Left.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), Apr 21st, 2014 @ 7:51pm

    Re: Re:

    ... By your browser pre-loading this page..

    There.. even better ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 22nd, 2014 @ 3:10am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Fuck it, how about this.

    Being in the same existential plane, universe or set of universes is an infringement upon space that may or may not be personally relevant, and necessitates that you pay a fine of $100 for every second you commit this clearly gross act of infringement; this clause cannot be broken or challenged. (I mean, duh, any fool could understand this, so we don't have to ask a judge.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anon, Apr 22nd, 2014 @ 10:43am

    Why bother

    Why even like a business like that or any business for that matter? They don't like or care about us. I mean I like certain companies but not enough to follow any company. TO them it's a cheap form of advertisement. If you like a certain companie , the only true way to support them is to continue buying their product. Nothing more nothing less. No need to sell your soul to those greedy shysters.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 4:51am

    Re: Re:

    ...If bilirubin an essential nutrient!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 4:52am

    Re: Re: Re:

    ...If bilirubin *is an essential nutrient!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 5:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Except that we haven't really got one as such. Dems? Don't kid yourselves. Greens? Sometimes, some of them. There aren't many of them in office so they don't have that much influence.

    What we've got is the ILLUSION of a left-liberal/right dichotomy presented by the lamestream media. They use this to pretend we have a choice.

    Meanwhile, on the Far Right, some people have convinced themselves that anyone who disagrees with them is a terrorist while others declare that membership of the other team automatically means they can't agree with them on anything.

    Neither of these assertions are true. There are Dems who love guns as much as Republicans do, would you believe? And liberals aren't known for committing terrorist acts.

    The Progressives are actually a subgroup of the Democratic Party and don't have much power at the moment. The ruling group is actually center right, and has been since Clinton. That's why there's not much of a difference between the two parties. Mind you, when there was, they were unelectable.

    The point is, we have a center-right government that has been identified as liberal-left because they're not the Republican Party.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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