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“Like” a Brand on Facebook, Sign up for Email Newsletter, Enter Contest = Void Your Right To Sue

The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

UPDATE (as of 4/21/14): General Mills has reverted back to their prior legal terms, which contain no mention of arbitration. Check out this TODAY.com article for more information,

UPDATE: The New York Times just released a new article entitled “General Mills Amends New Legal Policies” which states that the new legal policies do not apply to people who access the General Mills Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.

How many times a week do you “like” a brand on Facebook, sign up for a newsletter or enter a contest sponsored by a brand? If you’re like me, then your answer is probably 3-5 times or more per week!

According to an article in the New York Times entitled “When ‘Liking’ a Brand Online Voids the Right to Sue“, brands like General Mills are adding new language/terms to their website/Facebook pages which will prevent you from suing the company in the future. As an example, General Mills updated its privacy policy on Tuesday (you may have noticed this announcement on the General Mills website – look for the gray bar at the very top!) and added new Legal Terms found here.

Key updates to the General Mills Legal Terms include:

• New provisions relating to any disputes. These new provisions contain an agreement to resolve any and all disputes you may have with General Mills or any of its affiliated companies or brands contain through informal negotiations and, if these negotiations fail, through binding arbitration. This includes disputes related to the purchase or use of any General Mills product or service. All arbitrations will be conducted on an individual basis; you may not arbitrate as a member of a class. Claims may not be brought in court (with the limited exception of small claims court in certain circumstances), nor may you participate in any class action litigation. (See Section 3, “Binding Arbitration.”)

• New provisions about how you become bound by these legal terms and how you can opt out of them. Your use of any of our sites or services, or participation in any other General Mills offering, means that you are agreeing to these Legal Terms. You may terminate this agreement at time by notifying us by email of your intent to do so, but only if you also cease to participate in any of our offerings.

What are your thoughts on these changes? Does this make you hesitant to participate in contests and/or to print coupons when you are required to agree to these types of legal terms?

(Thanks, Jill and Amanda!)

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79 Hip Readers Commented

  • Teresa says:

    Thanks. You invalidated all the posts you make about facebook free products and contests now :)

    • Guest says:

      Snappppyy

    • A says:

      More for the rest of us, Teresa ;)

    • Kasia says:

      Collin didn’t invalidate her posts. You have no problem taking advantage of the deals she posts but when a piece of bad news pops up, you kill the messenger? Grow up or stop reading her blog if it’s so detrimental to you life!

    • meg says:

      Why be nasty towards collin and her team? Just be nice for petes sake.

      • Lynne says:

        I Think the person was making a light hearted joke with the smile face. But, When commenting via blog instead of face – to – face where you can interpret facial expressions and tone if voice, it is hard to tell.
        Sometimes I feel the comments on the discussion pages seem a little mean and attacking to me.
        Different opinions are okay. It’s interesting to hear other points of view on a topic. I just wish it was more respectful sometimes.

    • nelly says:

      WE NEED TO STOP EATING JUNK FOOD, THIS IS KILLING US!! LOL

  • samanthahallada says:

    I heard this on the news about an hour ago, pretty shady of them…

  • Rona says:

    I don’t think they should be allowed to have that type of agreement. I may like them today but have issue with them tomorrow. just because I got a coupon voids that? It’s scary that that is possible.

    • shelaghc says:

      Best way to fight this is first to call them and tell them you’re unhappy with this new policy.
      Then tell them they’ve lost a customer.
      Then do your homework to be sure of what you’re buying and who owns the parent company that makes it.

      Then stop buying their products.

  • Cheryl says:

    I don’t think it would stand up in court in the long run if there was a major issue or problem with a brand.

    • Chrystalyn says:

      My thoughts exactly. No judge would actually let them use this as their defense if somebody had a real problem and wanted to bring them to court. Signing away your right to sue a company by signing up to a newsletter wouldn’t actually hold up in court.

  • KR says:

    I don’t think those agreements would stand up in court. You can’t sign your rights to sue away before something even happens (usually). Even if you sign liability stuff at bounce house places, etc, you can still sue. I wonder what they are worried about getting sued for??? Buying too much cereal? Eating too much junk food and getting overweight?

  • Danielle T says:

    how often does one need to sue these types of companies? lol

    • shelaghc says:

      Why don’t you read the NYT article before you laugh about this so quickly.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/17/business/when-liking-a-brand-online-voids-the-right-to-sue.html

      “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.”

  • Emily says:

    I thought that you couldn’t really sign away your rights to sue companies. The people the sign away their rights to sue when sky diving, can still sue, as can their families if there was a problem. I think that language is there to scare people into thinking that they can’t sue, but they really can.

  • Krissy says:

    Can’t you just then “unlike them”? And then voiding your agreement? I can’t track who’s liked my page once they unliked it. Seems fishy…

    • shelaghc says:

      Companies pay for their FB accounts. They can see *far* more than we can on our free accounts.

    • Patti says:

      Good question…I avoid this problem by having a FB account in a pseudo name for all my couponing

      • Amber says:

        Exactly!!

        I think it’s horribly silly for anyone to use their real info on sites like FB when solely interested in a coupon. HE LL I’m not even using my real information now! LMAO

  • Taryn says:

    I found a chunk of wood in my Quaker granola bar once. I almost broke my tooth on it. I had to insist they give me a refund for that box, and the other ten boxes I had in my food storage. It’s hard to believe that if something bad had come of it, they wouldn’t have to do anything just because I have printed one of their coupons! Thanks goodness I don’t have a Facebook account:)

  • Kate says:

    It makes me worry about a company if they have to go to deceitful tactics or shady enough to try to “slip it by ” what r they dong to or with their product to protect themselves like this?

  • Gheri says:

    As an attorney, I can see some issues with whether this will be enforceable but as an avid couponer/consumer I am angry. It is heavy-handed attempt to contract away the right to sue and participate in class action suits and force each individual to arbitrate at their own expense– All for the possibility of winning a prize/free product or the occasional $1.00/2 coupon??! This is an awful business decision. It is not only making me rethink newsletters (specifically the free monthly product from betty Crocker newsletter) and online coupons, but buying GM products altogether.

    • shelaghc says:

      Here’s the NYT article.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/17/business/when-liking-a-brand-online-voids-the-right-to-sue.html

      Any info you can update us all on would be most appreciated.

    • Noel says:

      Hi Gheri,

      I as many others cannot understand how something this simple (literally a “click”) could be enforceable. I can see companies using it as a tool to downgrade severity (how can one sue a company they “like,” print coupons from for purchases, enter contests and rewards programs, etc). But, more so as a consumer like yourself, it ticks me off!!! And has definitely made me reevaluate the purchase of their products and anything associated with the GM Brand.

    • Casey says:

      FOr those fellow attorneys there may even be a low level constitutional discrimination issue here against the poor. (No offense). We are talking coupons and those possibly struggling o save money.

      • Noel says:

        Wow!!! That is an EXTREMELY valid point!!! Stereotypically, those considered wealthy, well-off, rich, etc. (no offense) are not the ones seeking out coupons, deals, rewards points/programs! So, those “poor” (again no offense) would be “clicking” away their right to sue … While those able to afford products would not. Very interesting.

        • Lynne says:

          I wish I could locate the statistics but the average couponer is actually not poor but in the middle to upper middle class bracket and more educated. Those who are the poorest are the ones who least use coupons.
          I know I have read this information in several news articles from reputable sources. I wish I had a source to cite to back up this claim.

          • Lynne says:

            Oops. I missed the point of the last two comments. Please know my last comment was not in defense of GM.

          • Lynne says:

            http://couponing.about.com/od/Couponing101/a/whyusecoupons.htm

            “Based on statistical profiling, households with an income of $100,000 or more and shoppers with college educations are twice as likely to use coupons than those who live below the average income and those who did not complete high school. In addition, another known fact is that many people who have millions in the bank use coupons.”

            • Patti says:

              Thank you Lynne, I am a member of one of “those” households. Couponing allows me to give more to local food pantrys and church families in need. Saving money is something that everyone should strive for, rich, middle class, or poor.

    • Clarissa says:

      As a fellow attorney, I agree with Gheri that I don’t think this would be enforceable in court. It’s an adhesion contract, and they are reviewed closely because they are often included by parties with vastly greater bargaining power – big company v. individual consumer. It’s possible sections can be voided if the court decides they are unfair and unconscionable. In this case it’s a big company producing basic food products that have a minimal price and for which it would be unreasonable to expect that a consumer would read the fine print about what their rights are when making such a purchase or liking a facebook page. This is different than a decision to apply for say a credit card, which is not done often and which it would be reasonable to expect people to read the details before signing up and using a card. I believe that in most states, one does not waive the right to sue for grossly negligent or intentional acts.

      Although I don’t support the use of mandatory arbitration, I think arbitration is a good option for many situations and personally used the BBB arbitration against a discounted gift card company that sold me a card that was frozen and had a very good experience, not only with the result, but just overall with the process.

  • Deb says:

    Any lawyers here? Let’s have a legal opinion on this.

    • Colleen says:

      Yep! And to make it short and sweet, these are pretty unenforceable. Binding arbitration clauses aren’t anything new, but for a company to try and argue that a consumer voids all rights to pursue legal action based on “liking” something on Facebook is meritless. I don’t see a Court upholding this anytime soon.

    • Kasia says:

      yes above your post

    • Casey says:

      Deb, I’ve been an atty. for 15 years and gave you my best legal & couponer,lol opinion below.

    • RL says:

      As a corporate attny, I caution to say this hasn’t been tested yet, so it’s unclear if it’s enforceable. However, it will probably work to force a claimant into arbitration.

  • Christine says:

    Personally I think it’s sad they have to implement this in the first place. It saddens me that we live in a “sue for anything/everything” kind of world.

    • shelaghc says:

      Considering what happened with GM and the people who died as a result of them deciding not to make a $1 repair to their cars, nothing surprises me about corporate America.
      Are you aware that GM also pressured people against suing after their family members died?

      That’s not exactly a “sue for anything/everything” situation.
      And, to be frank, the few crazy ones get all the publicity. Lawsuits for legitimate reasons happen all the time.

    • Alea says:

      That’s how I feel Christine!

    • Alison says:

      People do need recourse when they are harmed by a product and in some cases it helps to keep us all safe. For example -Everyone always points to that old McDonalds case about the hot coffee as being frivolous but it has probably prevented a lot of burns. Most people don’t realize that the poor woman had third degree burns and needed skin grafts – not just a little boo boo. We have her to thank now that coffee comes in sturdier cups and isn’t hot enough to truly harm you.

      • lyn96 says:

        I saw a documentary about that little old lady. It truly was a bad situation. I have seen those burns and it still turns my stomach thinking about it .It was not frivolous I always thought so till I saw that documentary. I don’t like how they (GM) are trying to run a end run around doing the right thing.

        • shelaghc says:

          Sadly, a lot of the media not only trivialized the situation, they mocked the poor woman.

          That’s why so many people got the wrong impression about what really happened.

    • Noel says:

      I agree that we live in a “sue happy” day and age. And that is extremely sad.

      But, on the flip side, we also have an exorbitant number of greedy big business corporate companies doing everything they can (cheapening ingredients, exporting manufacturing, etc.) to make money hand over fist. All without any interest in the consumer’s well-being. And to further “protect” themselves (distance them from “the little people”) they resort to slyly inserting legal jargon into their “terms and conditions” which limits their liabilities in a court of law. And that’s extremely sad! :[

      This is just my opinion of course.

  • Jacki says:

    Seems a little crazy. Like something on facebook you cant sue over their negligence? Can something like this even be enforced?

  • T says:

    I understand their stance but I disagree. I’ve always questioned the practice of having to “like” a FB page to get a sample or coupon. Most of the time, I have not tried the product yet. The truth is I don’t know if I like it or not. It’s unfortunate that companies may be further abusing their FB privileges because they forced a savvy shopper to like them. The idea of liking a company on FB is supposed to be like promoting them by word of mouth. If you once told a friend you liked a product, and later found out it caused cancer, you still have the right to sue…

  • Noel says:

    YES it makes me hesitant!!! And totally angry!!!!!

    I agree that including these types of terms within their legal jargon when simply entering a contest, requesting/printing coupons, or just “liking” their page is totally and completely shady and very unethical!!! In a way they are taking “rights” away from the consumer and in essence limiting their very own liabilities. (What big business does best!)

    I already feel that “liking” a page or providing a ton of personal information is giving a company a lot of access to who I am! But, now they want to make that simple “click” or “entry” an easy out should I have a MAJOR issue that could warrant legal action. In short, it’s shullbit!!!!!

    And in order to opt-out of these terms, I need to request so in an email! TO WHERE??? Doing so also means I can also no longer participate in their “offerings.” Personally, that’s fine with me. I would much rather not get a free sample … Or get that extra $.50 coupon (especially if I can get it from another coupon site or from the paper) … Or enter their contest, so that I can maintain my rights to proceed with LEGAL action in a court of law, should I need to in the future.

    If this is how it’s going to be, then they need to have a “terms and conditions, legal, and rules” POP-UP when you “like” their page or enter for contests/coupons (similar to the one where you have to “allow” them access to your personal information on social media sites). Not a little verbiage that says by clicking you agree to our terms and conditions with tiny highlighted links, one can review at leisure. Afterall, this binding jargon now includes limitations to legal pursuits … So, at a minimum the agreement between both parties should be fully displayed and represented, right?

    In niceties and food jargon, “this really frosts my cookies!!!” And I for one am definitely rethinking my participation in these “offerings!!!”

    *drops mic* ;]

  • john says:

    Here is another question to think about: How many people actually use their real information or real email (not just a junk email) when they like something on facebook or sign up for the company’s club? Then if you call and complain or sue using your real info, will they know the difference? Now if you have to give an address then maybe they can link things that way, but other than that the only thing they could potentially have to go on would be an IP address, and some courts have said that an IP address is not a person and can not be considered as such so even that would be lacking to say you agreed to arbitrate rather than sue them.

    We can thank the supreme court for this though. A couple years ago they decided a case involving AT&T and since then floodgates to force everything to arbitration have opened. That case involved a lot of people being over charged $50. It wasn’t cost effective to sue or go to arbitration for $50, so they tried a class action lawsuit. Court said there was an arbitration clause so everyone individually had to go to arbitration, which of course no one would do that over $50. So AT&T made out like a bandit “stealing” $50 from all the people they overcharged since very few would waste the money to go to arbitration.

    • Julie says:

      My husband was issued a check from Verizon for a few cents because of a billing overcharge. He was going to cash it, but I told him not to because the original overcharge was probably much larger and cashing it would probably nullify any real repayment.

  • nelly says:

    I have a separate FB for getting coupons only and for all the bloggies, separated from my personal FB. What I’m doing lately is like the page to get the coupon, and then unlike it right away.

    I don’t even talk about coupons with nobody anymore, people want everything hand out. Deals are not like they used to be when we got a bunch a free stuff straight up with coupons. Now we have to jump a bunch of ropes, to get the deals, apps and what not.

    This days you actually have to have money to invest on a deal, to jump all the ropes, then finally, maybe get the deal with all your money back.

    ..that’s my 2 cents

  • Jenn says:

    This so makes me think of the statement “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold”. I always keep that in the back of my mind when I enter contests. I still enter, but this article will make me think twice next time.

  • Casey says:

    You can’t waive negligence or injury therefore if either resulted from the use thereof said company or product would be accountable under the letter of the law. I don’t think the first comment was meant to be harsh. Simply wise it may be more important to that reader to protect her future claims against said companies in their “totality” vs. participating in their promotions. While said risk is negligible some are not risk takers.
    it could be injurious to said companies and their market shares if more people were like teresa and did not participate in future promotions.

    That’s the legal part of me, the coupon part of me says what the hey the risk is so small and I love the promotions. :)

  • Jessica says:

    I think this has to do with the lawsuit brought by a mom about Cheerios having GMO’s in them. They sued I think, to have them remove wording or to re-package with actual Non-GMO ingredients. My guess, that mom that sued liked them on FB and still sued them. So going forward, they want to cover their butts and have included these obscure clauses that no one reads when we click away to prevent another lawsuit costing them tons of money.

  • Andrea says:

    General Mills Amends New Legal Policies

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/18/business/general-mills-amends-new-legal-policies.html?action=click&contentCollection=Business%20Day&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

    • Thanks! I just updated the post with this link.

    • Amber says:

      … “should an individual subscribe to one of our publications or download coupons, these terms would apply. But even then, the policy would not and does not preclude a consumer from pursuing a claim. It merely determines a forum for pursuing a claim. And arbitration is a straightforward and efficient way to resolve such disputes.”

      That’s just horrible. So FB and Twitter aren’t a part of the “Sent to arbitration” policy but coupons and newsletters (etc) are. That is just insane. Out and out insanity.

  • bloneambition says:

    Recently a lady was sued for writing bad comments about a company on a blog. When she purchased the product online…somewhere in the checkout process or warranty card it stated she could not talk trash. How many times have we processed/called/ blogged about a product or company? I have…so does that mean I will get sued because tbeir product was bad? This is very bad business on general mills part. Even though the , lawyers say it wont hold up in court, which I believe. .it puts fear in a consumer and makes a person not even want to purchase their item…….
    as for teresa commenting to collin….this is a company that SHE pointed out that is doing this…in otherwords beware of this company. Not all will be doing this shady business….you are truly an idiot…stay off her blog!

    • Potato says:

      It’s called the first amendment. No waiver can overthrow that. Simple.

    • Colleen says:

      It is more likely than anything that the contents of her comments were considered to be libel, which is the written equivalent of spoken slander. It is possible that she was relaying certain dealings with the company that they could prove were not true, i.e. dealings with customer service, etc. The truth is that a lot of times all the facts behind the lawsuit are not public knowledge.

    • Ashley says:

      You are truly an idiot. Go live you own life.

  • Diane says:

    It is possible that if enough people complain that the company will back down. We have the power of numbers.

  • mel says:

    Hey bloneambition… take a chill pill!! Teresa was being tongue in cheek! No need to get riled up. Makes you look like the idiot, not her.

  • Megan Pugh says:

    What is this world coming to? Our country has gotten so used to doing things the “easy” way (GMO’s, chemically based, cheap quality products etc) and a good number of people abuse the system whether it be to a large scale or what would be considered a smaller scale (misusing a coupon for example). Some people really have become lawsuit happy while others have a legit reason to sue. This is a perfect example of why our country is falling apart. General Mills for whatever reason felt they had to do this (DISCLAIMER: I am not saying that what they are doing is right by any means). They have seen what has happened to other companies and they want to protect themselves. On the other side of the coin, people who have every right in pursuing a lawsuit should not have to jump through hoops to do so. You would think that the person who is suing had suffered enough and would be asking for reasonable compensation. This is not always the case though!
    To end this extremely long post, I will leave you with this. Instead of sitting back and watching everything in this country unravel, take a stand! Leave comments on blogs, write our government, stop buying products from companies that you don’t believe in their methods, support companies that you feel are doing the right thing (even if they are more expensive cut costs else where. For example, get rid of the $150 cable bill)…..
    If we all start to do this, there WILL be a change!

    P.S. I am not trying to be rude or disrespectful in any way. I LOVE Hip2Save, Collin and those who contribute to the site. I would say this same exact thing to someones face. Thank you Collin for opening the door to open discussion on topics such as these!

  • deb says:

    Hmmmm im sure Kelloggs is watching. ;)

  • Amber says:

    If it’s a bad enough offense like severe negligence I believe this doesn’t hold up in court.

  • june k says:

    i think with all the mistrust of these big corporations as we have the right to have it. i think this as the young kids put it these days, creep on their part and when they make a mistake they need to own up to it right way. i dont think i will be liking things much on fb if this is the way the companies heading sorry. just wanted to say my peace these companies have been gettin away with way too much lately. i still absolultely love ur website girl.

  • Steph says:

    Sneaky…

  • Beth says:

    So, they’ve changed their terms to include how we interacted with them in the past giving us no out? I buy very little processed foods these days & pretty much everything they make is processed. How about not buying their products anymore? Vote with your feet. Buy the other brand instead. Here’s another article about this: http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2014/04/17/clicking-like-can-cancel-your-right-to-sue-a-company/

  • rochelle says:

    I think the lesson here is to unlike them before you sue them.

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