Posted: 6:06 p.m. Thursday, April 17, 2014

General Mills says Facebook “like” equals legal agreement



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Clicking like on a company's Facebook page or even grabbing a box of cereal at the grocery store could be surrendering your legal rights with some simple things you do every day.
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General Mills, makers of everything from cereals, soups, and even Betty Crocker just changed the legal terms on its website.

By Justin Gray

WASHINGTON —

Clicking like on a company's Facebook page or even grabbing a box of cereal at the grocery store could be surrendering your legal rights with some simple things you do every day.
 
Just about all of us probably have a box of Cheerios in the kitchen. But did you know when you buy this cereal or interact with Cheerios online, the company that makes it has now decided you've entered into a complex legal agreement?
 
It's all in the fine print. But how often do you really read a company's legal policies before clicking "like" on a Facebook page, downloading a coupon or even buying a box of cereal?

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General Mills, maker of products including cereals, soups, and even Betty Crocker, just changed the legal terms on its website. Haggan Daas did the same, as well.
 
The company says if you interact with it online or even just buy its products, you are agreeing to something called "binding arbitration."
 
“General Mills is essentially trying to eliminate their customer's ability to sue them for any misconduct or harm it causes,” said consumer advocate Christine Hines from Public Citizen.
 
More and more businesses, from banks to cable companies and cellphone carriers, have made arbitration agreements part of the contracts you sign.
 
But Hines said General Mills is the first company to take it this far.
 
“Their terms are very broad and should be challenged in court,” Hines said.
 
When contacted for a comment about the new policy, a General Mills spokesman said, "This is being broadly mischaracterized. The policy would not and does not preclude a consumer from pursuing a claim.  It merely determines a forum for pursuing a claim."
 
Advice from the experts? Read the fine print.

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