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"From the valley of our Orwellian corporatocracy...oh! oh! oh!" A "little" story about what happens when you succumb to "the suck" and "like" something on Facebook, and then click that little box to accept a "privacy policy," all from one of the, supposedly, more benign corporate conglomerates in the Fortune 500, General Mills, producers of the following brands, among others: Betty Crocker, Bisquick, Yoplait, Colombo, Totino's, Jeno's, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Old El Paso, Häagen-Dazs, Cheerios, Trix, and Lucky Charms.

When ‘Liking’ a Brand Online Voids the Right to Sue
By STEPHANIE STROM
New York Times
APRIL 16, 2014

Might downloading a 50-cent coupon for Cheerios cost you legal rights?

General Mills, the maker of cereals like Cheerios and Chex as well as brands like Bisquick and Betty Crocker, has quietly added language to its website to alert consumers that they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons, “join” it in online communities like Facebook, enter a company-sponsored sweepstakes or contest or interact with it in a variety of other ways.

Instead, anyone who has received anything that could be construed as a benefit and who then has a dispute with the company over its products will have to use informal negotiation via email or go through arbitration to seek relief, according to the new terms posted on its site...

The story informs readers that the company added this language on Tuesday. "...after The New York Times contacted it about the changes, General Mills seemed to go even further, suggesting that buying its products would bind consumers to those terms."

...“We’ve updated our Privacy Policy,” the company wrote in a thin, gray bar across the top of its home page. “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...”
We're also told that the revisions to the legal copy at the company's website "...occurred shortly after a judge refused to dismiss a case brought against the company by consumers in California, made General Mills one of the first, if not the first, major food companies to seek to impose what legal experts call “forced arbitration” on consumers."

I could say it's an "Orwellian harbinger of things to come," but I'll let Julia Duncan, director of federal programs and an arbitration expert at the American Association for Justice, give you the skinny on what's ahead...

...“Although this is the first case I’ve seen of a food company moving in this direction, others will follow — why wouldn’t you?” said Julia Duncan, director of federal programs and an arbitration expert at the American Association for Justice, a trade group representing plaintiff trial lawyers. “It’s essentially trying to protect the company from all accountability, even when it lies, or say, an employee deliberately adds broken glass to a product.”

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Hmmm....protecting a "company from all accountability, even when it lies..." Silly rabbit consumers...legal Trix are no longer for kids, they're for the one percent!


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In other news from General Mills, today: “General Mills defends G.M.O.s in responsibility report,” Monica Watrous, Food Business News, 4/16/14


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