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Does 'Liking' a Company Mean You Can't Sue?

By Brett Snider, Esq. on April 17, 2014 11:04 AM

Be more careful with your Facebook "likes" -- they may block you from suing a company.

Critics of General Mills' newest legal terms believe that you may lose your right to sue the company simply by pressing "like" on its corporate Facebook page. The New York Times reports that the cereal maker may be the first major food company to seek "forced arbitration" on customers, removing their abilities to seek remedies in court.

Here are a few reasons to think twice before you "like" a company or brand:

Arbitration Provisions Are Everywhere

Just like the liability waivers in your gym membership, arbitration provisions are hiding in plain sight in most of the agreements you sign. These clauses generally state that you agree to give up your right to sue a company in exchange for participating in arbitration.

Many of these arbitration provisions are slipped into software and website user agreements that most people haplessly consent to on a daily basis. And although it may seem sneaky, these agreements are typically upheld by courts.

So it shouldn't be surprising that General Mills is incorporating an arbitration provision into its online policies. But you should be aware of some of the potential consequences of "liking" General Mills.

Receiving Benefits? May Lose Right to Sue

General Mills' Legal Terms state that consumers may agree to the terms of their arbitration clause in exchange for benefits, discounts, content, features, and services received through access to General Mills' website, online community, email newsletter, digital coupons, sweepstakes, promotions, or "other General Mills offerings."

In short, downloading a digital coupon for Chex Mix may obligate you to arbitrate with General Mills instead of going to court, even if you find shards of glass in your bag.

A liberal reading of this policy would equate "liking" the company on Facebook to receiving the "benefit" of being part of its Facebook community. You would give up your right to sue General Mills without receiving any tangible benefits -- other than the pleasure of its Facebook company.

It's uncertain if this sort of policy would hold up in court or if it would be struck down as unconscionable. But for the time being, just because you like Cheerios, you may want to think twice before "liking" General Mills.

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