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General Mills says, you can like us and sue us

A box of General Mills cereal sits on the shelf at Santa Venetia Market in San Rafael, California

If you download a coupon for Yoplait or for any of General Mills food products, you can still sue the company.

The food maker reversed a privacy policy it introduced last week, which forced consumers into arbitration, that’s a way to settle disputes outside of court and through a mediator. The privacy policy appeared to say that if you downloaded a coupon or interacted with any of General Mill’s online communities you gave up their right to sue the company. But after consumers voiced their objections on social media, General Mills backed down.

This is a big win for consumers says Imre Szalai, a professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. 

"If you arbitrate you have very little discovery rights, so you can’t demand documents from the opposing party. And so it’s harder for a consumers to win in arbitration.

Big food companies say they’re being hit by growing number of class-action lawsuits and arbitration is more efficient than litigation, said Jim Angel, a professor at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. He said it’ll be interesting to see whether consumers will tolerate this strategy.

"You know slipping this into the fine print, just erodes the trust you have in a food company," Angel said. 

And it can cause a social media black eye all the more likely.

About the author

Queena Kim covers technology for Marketplace. She lives in the Bay Area.

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