Could Your Facebook Likes Limit Your Legal Rights?

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Thinking of liking your favorite brands on Facebook?

You may want to think again in case you ever have a problem with their products or service. General Mills, creator of tried and true cereals like Cheerios and Chex, as well as Betty Crocker products, has added some language to their website that could be troubling for coupon lovers and social media fans.

Giving up the right to sue? The website updated stipulated that consumers who join their online communities (like Facebook), download a coupon or enter a sweepstakes will automatically give up their right to sue the company at a future time. Instead, if a consumer meeting the criteria has a problem with a product they would need to go through an informal negotiation via email or arbitration.

The update to the company’s privacy policy comes on the heels of a troubling legal case for General Mills. Consumers in California sued the company, and the judge in the matter refused to dismiss the case after General Mills’s request.

Forced arbitration. However, the food manufacturer isn’t the only one to seek this type of “forced arbitration.” Other companies have taken a similar approach particularly after the 2011 Supreme Court decision AT&T Mobility vs. Concepcion. This case paved the way for businesses to be able to ban consumers from claiming fraud and joining with others for a single case against a company. Companies can now forbid class-action lawsuits by using a standard-form contract similar to the new stipulations from General Mills.

Credit card companies, mobile phone companies and others have all designed forced arbitration rules based on AT&T’s ruling. Many companies are growing concerned about the number of class-action lawsuits that are being filed in their respective industry. Most industries are being affected, but consumer advocates worry that the blanket arbitration rules can hurt legitimate cases of neglect, fraud of harm.


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