General Mills is, of course, no stranger to controversy regarding the ingredients and health properties of its products. Just add an “O” to the end of the acronym if you need to refresh your memory.
That said, we have a feeling that the company’s latest attempt to protect itself in the legal sphere will, in the immortal words of the late Keith Moon, “go over like a lead balloon.“
…and there will be plenty of terrible press in the process.
Today the New York Times revealed that GM has updated its legal policies in the face of yet another consumer lawsuit over false advertising. The new terms essentially claim that, once a consumer has “liked” or followed a GM account, participated in a contest, downloaded a coupon or received anything that could be classified as “benefits” from the brand, then he or she forfeits the right to file a formal suit.
Legal experts call it “forced arbitration” while common folk call it “a shameless attempt to shield oneself from all legal culpability”. The only reason GM can even consider a move like this is that the U.S. Supreme Court found, in a 2011 case, that businesses could use contracts to force groups of consumers making fraud claims to resolve them outside of court.
Here’s the language:
Two moms recently banded together to sue GM over the fact that its “100% natural” claims for Nature Valley products play fast and loose with the word (high fructose corn syrup, anyone?).
These changes would theoretically prevent the two from taking GM to court and force them to settle independently–as long as the company can prove that they agreed to the legal terms (which will undoubtedly face some challenges of their own in court). Any interaction with the GM brand, and even a mere visit to the website, could amount to a tacit agreement to forfeit those legal rights.
Here’s what this change says to us: GM is so scared of facing lawsuits over false advertising that they believe the price of the inevitable negative headlines and mommy blog boycotts is worth the money they’ll save.
We can’t say we agree.