After upsetting its consumers with a change to its legal terms on its website, General Mills has reversed back to its original legal term. Consumers can now download and use coupons from the food company once again without the fear of giving up any rights.
Legal terms that include wording which waive the right to a class action lawsuit are not new. Most companies have consumers and users agree to similar legal terms when using their products or services. Since 2011, companies have started to include such terms when the Supreme Court ruled that it was legal to do so.
What caught the attention of the General Mills terms was the extensive ways that the terms would be agreed to. Instead of a notice that using a single means of service would cause the consumer to agree, the company put wording that included almost any way that the consumer would gain some benefit or discount from the company.
People misinterpreted this to mean that all ways of communication were subject to agreement. Consumers thought the agreement was active by simply purchasing a product or interacting with online social sites. It did not help that news headlines reported the misunderstandings as well. Under all the backlash, General Mills has reversed back to their original legal terms and have offered an explanation on their company blog.
General Mills explained that the terms were meant to be agreed upon if a consumer took the extra step in signing up to receive emails, downloading a coupon, or entering a sweepstakes. Simply buying a product or communicating with the company online did not bind the consumer to the legal agreement.
Explaining how people agree to the terms of service has done little to help explain what the exclusion of a class action lawsuit actually means. Consumers think that means that the company is trying to take away any legal rights if the consumer feels that the product is unsatisfactory.
What consumers do not realize is that exclusion benefits both sides if there is a dispute. When agreeing to the terms of service, the consumer is agreeing to settle the dispute with the company instead of taking matters to court. Companies argue that resolving matters outside of court is the most cost-effective way to gain results.
General Mills has apologized in the same blog post in which they announced the reverse of legal terms. They claim to have been shocked by the reaction the situation has caused and hope that consumers will continue to interact with them online. Consumers may want their day in court, but they have scored one victory online.
Opinion by Raul Hernandez