Speed Reads


'Liking' Cheerios could crimp your legal rights

CC by: zeevveez

General Mills — the giant food conglomerate behind Cheerios, Chex, and Wheaties, as well as Betty Crocker, Macaroni Grill, Yoplait, and Nature Valley — has quietly changed the legal terms on its website, The New York Times noticed. Now, if you interact with any of those brands online — download coupons, "like" or "join" it on Facebook, or enter a sweepstakes, for example — you give up all rights to sue the company and instead have to settle your grievances through arbitration.

And General Mills isn't shying away from its new policy under scrutiny from the press. In fact, "in language added on Tuesday after The New York Times contacted it about the changes, General Mills seemed to go even further, suggesting that buying its products would bind consumers to those terms," reports Stephanie Strom. Other companies, notably credit cards and cellphone services, have added similar language to their customer contracts, but a food company trying to block lawsuits is an escalation.

Will the courts uphold General Mills' new contract? Scott L. Nelson, a Public Citizen lawyer, tells The Times that he doesn't think a judge would go along for an aggrieved customer who merely visited General Mills' website, "but we really don't know." It's a pretty safe bet, he added, that "there will be some subpoenas for computer hard drives in the future." Read the entire article in The New York Times.