Class Action, Privacy

What Do General Mills and Your Business Have in Common?

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The answer: neither of you want to get sued.

An  in The New York Times, provocatively titled “When ‘Liking’ a Brand Online Voids the Right to Sue,'” is raising eyebrows among consumers and across the legal community. Cheap Nike Shoes In short, General Mills has updated its Privacy Policy and Terms of Use to require consumers to resolve complaints through binding arbitration, rather than in the courts. That’s not uncommon. The controversy here arises from the fact that General Mills is trying to apply this requirement not just to consumers who explicitly agree to it, but to anyone who likes the company on Facebook, redeems coupons, or enters a General Mills sweepstakes, among other things.

Although the company , it’s not at all clear that affected consumers will be aware of the change. What if you like General Mills on Facebook but you never actually visit their homepage? The company would have to somehow prove that you were aware of the arbitration requirement in order for it to be enforceable, at least theoretically.

Arbitration clauses have picked up steam since , the 2011 Supreme Court ruling that gave a thumbs-up to clauses prohibiting class-actions, essentially requiring consumers to go it alone. , , and are just a few of the companies that have now added arbitration clauses to their customer contracts.

Time will tell whether General Mills’s aggressive arbitration move will hold up in court. In any event, its actions drive home the point that consumers should always read any agreement before they sign or click “I agree.” And for businesses crafting their own Terms of Use, there’s a fine line to walk: How do you best protect yourself from litigation, while also ensuring that your contracts will be enforceable in the event of litigation? Hiring an attorney to help you walk that line can save you thousands of dollars and countless hours down the road.

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