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After a backlash, General Mills reversed a policy it put in place last week that attempted to lock consumers into an agreement not to sue the firm if they had "liked" one of its products in social media.

Glen Stubbe/Minneapolis Star Tribune,

General Mills reverses itself on consumers' right to sue

  • Article by: STEPHANIE STROM
  • New York Times
  • April 21, 2014 - 10:37 AM

General Mills, one of the country’s largest food companies, on Saturday night announced in a stunning about-face that it was withdrawing its controversial plans to make consumers give up their right to sue it.

In an e-mail sent after 10 p.m. on Saturday, the company said that due to concerns that its plans to require consumers to agree to informal negotiation or arbitration had raised among the public, it was taking down the new terms it had posted on its website.

“Because our concerns and intentions were widely misunderstood, causing concerns among our consumers, we’ve decided to change them back to what they were,” Mike Siemienas, a company spokesman, wrote in the e-mail. “As a result, the recently updated legal terms are being removed from our websites, and we are announcing today that we have reverted back to our prior legal terms, which contain no mention of arbitration.”

The announcement was a quick reversal for the company, which had quietly put up the new terms requiring consumers downloading coupons, “joining its online communities,” participating in sweepstakes and other promotions, and interacting with General Mills in a variety of other ways to agree to arbitration in lieu of suing the company in the event of a dispute.

Those terms, which were first reported by the New York Times on Wednesday, were widely excoriated by consumers on Facebook and Twitter, and legal experts questioned whether the broad language the company used could be enforced. In a pop-up box on its home page, the company had said it would “require all disputes related to the purchase or use of any General Mills product or service to be resolved through binding arbitration.”

The Golden Valley-based company — which owns Cheerios, Progresso and Yoplait — elaborated on its change of heart in a blog post.

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