General Mills Completes Its Reversal on Arbitration Terms


In the final chapter of a brief three-part exercise in damage control, General Mills has completed its 180-degree reversal on a failed plan to prevent future class action lawsuits by forcing consumers to resolve complaints via private arbitration.

After refusing to comment on a New York Times story that speculated as to whether the new terms would have forbidden all fans and followers from filing suit, the company attempted to clarify before dumping the effort entirely.

Over the weekend, GM’s director of external communications issued a statement in the form of a blog post which nicely demonstrates the difficulty of turning legal terms colloquial.

Key quotes and our translations after the jump.

“We rarely have disputes with consumers – and arbitration would have simply streamlined how complaints are handled.”

Translation: the move would have prevented damaging, publicly visible lawsuits over false advertising claims by requiring each customer who received any “benefit” from GM to agree to settle out of court.

“Many companies do the same, and we felt it would be helpful. But consumers didn’t like it. So we’ve reverted back to our prior terms. There’s no mention of arbitration, and the arbitration provisions we had posted were never enforced. Nor will they be.”

Translation: customers didn’t buy our “this will make things easier for you” spin.

“We’ll just add that we never imagined this reaction. Similar terms are common in all sorts of consumer contracts, and arbitration clauses don’t cause anyone to waive a valid legal claim. They only specify a cost-effective means of resolving such matters.”

Translation: we didn’t realize that customers would see “cost-effective” arbitration (read, again: no public lawsuits) as a move to limit their right to seek damages.

“At no time was anyone ever precluded from suing us by purchasing one of our products at a store or liking one of our Facebook pages. That was either a mischaracterization – or just very misunderstood.”

Translation: we never clarified the confusing language in our new terms of use, thereby opening ourselves to attacks from both legal experts and angry customers on social media.

The new plan seems pretty clear, though one wonders about the efficiency of its execution….

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
Publish date: April 21, 2014 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT