Tuesday, April 22, 2014

General Mills (Reluctantly) Gets Rid of Anti-Suing Arbitration Rule

You might have read my screed last week about how General Mills, the makers of such things as Cheerios and stuff under the Betty Crocker label, had a new terms of use clause.
Betty Crocker, or at least her parent company
General Mills, now says it won't force you
into an arbitration session if you deal with them,
them get injured by one of their products.  

It basically said if you interacted with them, like downloaded a coupon or something, you lost your right to sue them.

Instead, if, in the unlikely event something bad happened to you through a General Mills product, like, I don't know, cooties in the Cheerios, you'd have to go through an arbitration process.

I guess a lot of other people were annoyed with this, too, and it became a PR nightmare for General Mills. So they rescinded the arbitration deal, but insist we're losing out on a Really Great Deal.

General Mills said arbitration would have "streamlined" the process for consumers if there were a product problem.

But Consumerists says they're still pulling the wool over our eyes on that one. 

Here's what Consumerist says:

"Arbitration clauses force every individual consumer to give up his or her right ot a lawsuit into a process that is proven to be unbalanced in favor of the business with massive legal teams at their beck and call."

As General Mills notes, people can still participate in the arbitration, which the consumer could theoretically win, but the arbitration clause means most lawyers won't get involved on the consumer's sice because of the unbalance and because damages are severely limited.

A consumer might have a good case, but the cost of making that case would far outweigh any damages he or she might receive under the arbitration clause, according to Consumerist.

So, the bottom line is, the process would have been streamlined and improved for General Mills, not you and me.

The fact that General Mills retracted this boneheaded arbitration deal in the face of bad PR means every once in awhile, we can win against big companies that try to take fairness and balanced business dealings away from us.

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