General Mills Clarifies for Fans: You Can Still Sue Us (but Please Don’t)


But not “100% naturally”

General Mills has attempted to dispel some confusion regarding what may have been the most boneheaded move of the week: a revision of its legal terms that seemingly forbade fans from filing lawsuits if they’ve clicked on anything related to the company.

In summary: Facebook fans and Twitter followers can still sue…unless they’ve subscribed to a GM publication or downloaded a coupon. The mix-up seems to have stemmed from the use of the phrase “online communities”, because who could have foreseen people misinterpreting that one?!

The note a spokesperson sent to The New York Times after the jump:

“No one is precluded from suing us merely by purchasing our products at the store or liking one of our brand Facebook pages. For example, 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.”

By “online communities” they meant digital curiosities like the Betty Crocker group, source of newsletters and recipes–not social media accounts.

Here’s the rub: if a fan chooses to like or follow the brand in order to download a coupon (and we know that every single offer requires some related action), then he/she will have to agree to the new conditions. As the spokesperson stated above, those conditions mean forced arbitration, which means private settlements, which means no bad headlines for GM.

We might say that the company’s biggest failure in this story was the choice not to comment on the original Times piece when they had the chance.

Yet, after reading that response, we still feel like there were no lessons learned.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.