Following an outcry, food manufacturer General Mills has referred back to its prior legal policy, which makes no mention of forced arbitration as a condition of interacting with the company.
“We rarely have disputes with consumers – and arbitration would have simply streamlined how complaints are handled. Many companies do the same, and we felt it would be helpful,” Kirstie Foster, a representative for General Mills, wrote on the General Mills blog. “But consumers didn’t like it.”
Last week, the New York Times reported that General Mills had altered its legal policy so as to compel potential customers into arbitration based on something as innocuous as visiting one of their brands websites, or even interacting with a brand on social media such as Twitter or Facebook. The new General Mills legal policy stated that “use of any of our sites or services, or participation in any other General Mills offering, means that you are agreeing to these Legal Terms.”
Empowered by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, corporations have quietly placed more expansive forced arbitration clauses into contracts meant for potential employees or customers. Without even realizing it, consumers and employees attempting to sue after being harmed by a corporation may find that they’ve already signed away their legal rights to do so.
General Mills previously put up a post following the Times article saying that their policy had been “grossly mischaracterized” and that the arbitration agreements could only be willingly agreed to by the customer “only when you engage and agree.”
On its follow-up post on Saturday, General Mills apologized to its customers.
“On behalf of our company and our brands, we would also like to apologize. We’re sorry we even started down this path,” Foster wrote. “And we do hope you’ll accept our apology.”