Terms
Apr 19, 2014 • By

We’ve listened – and we’re changing our legal terms back

As has been widely reported, General Mills recently posted a revised set of Legal Terms on our websites. Those terms – and our intentions – were widely misread, causing concern among consumers.

So we’ve listened – and we’re changing them back to what they were before.

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.

But consumers didn’t like it.

So we’ve reverted back to our prior terms. There’s no mention of arbitration, and the arbitration provisions we had posted were never enforced. Nor will they be. We stipulate for all purposes that our recent Legal Terms have been terminated, that the arbitration provisions are void, and that they are not, and never have been, of any legal effect.

That last bit is from our lawyers.

We’ll just add that we never imagined this reaction. Similar terms are common in all sorts of consumer contracts, and arbitration clauses don’t cause anyone to waive a valid legal claim. They only specify a cost-effective means of resolving such matters. At no time was anyone ever precluded from suing us by purchasing one of our products at a store or liking one of our Facebook pages. That was either a mischaracterization – or just very misunderstood.

Not that any of that matters now.

On behalf of our company and our brands, we would also like to apologize. We’re sorry we even started down this path. And we do hope you’ll accept our apology. We also hope that you’ll continue to download product coupons, talk to us on social media, or look for recipes on our websites.

Our legal terms? You’ll find them right on our website. You’ll also find they’re back to what they always were.

By clicking "post" below, I affirm that I have read and agree to General Mills' Privacy Policy, Terms of Use, and Community Rules. I specifically agree that all information, suggestions, ideas, or other materials I provide are freely usable and transferable, including with attribution, by General Mills and all of its affiliates without compensation upon submission.

  • Deepak Gupta

    I find it odd that this post continues to defend the widespread use of forced arbitration. Actually, forced arbitration clauses cause lots of people to give up valid legal claims — that’s the whole point of them. Among other things, they preclude people from banding together to bring claims that are economically infeasible to bring on an individual basis. They function as a get-out-jail-free card, an exit clause from the civil justice system. So, while it’s perhaps commendable that you buckled to public pressure, you seem to have done so only because you’re afraid of bad publicity–not because you actually understand the issue or want to do the right thing.

    • disqus_user_1001

      Good thing they changed the terms back so this never happens again! When I checked, it says right at the top:

      “We reserve the right to change these terms and conditions at any time
      without notice. Please check back often to ensure you are aware of any
      updates or changes to these terms.”

      Google “change of terms provisions”

  • http://www.wayneparsons.com wayne parsons

    I appreciate this showing of corporate responsibility. I hope you are rewarded with increased sales. I do love Cheerios!

    • David Aubke

      I don’t consider it responsible behavior to attack your customers then back off when you get called out. That’s the behavior of a schoolyard bully.

    • Mike

      As someone who was born and raised (40+ years) in Minnesota, General Mills was always a positive corporate presence in the Land if 10,000 Lakes. However, your latest decision (now, wisely reversed) was beyond stupid at best and I suspect, deliberately nefarious. We know the NOBODY reads all the legalistic verbiage that has begun to accompany every e-transaction and you took advantage of that.

      Your comment that “We never imagined this reaction” is beyond naive and I suspect is short hand for “Damn, we got caught!” Try running these dumb ideas past one of your secretaries, truck drivers, or assembly line staff people first instead of your corporate attorneys. You will get better advice for a lot less money.

      Life is hard and it is harder if you are stupid!

      BTW – I did NOT read all of the BS associated with logging in to make this comment. I hope I have voided my rights to litigate in the future. A strongly worded letter from an intern will suffice – Cheers

  • Bill Solomon

    Well done. General Mills, and you, Ms. Foster, are to be commended for acting quickly and fairly. The General Mills label continues to stand for quality and integrity, timeless values that your company has built for many many years, and values which you have recognized should not be lost in the wrong message sent out by the now discarded arbitration policy .Thank you for focusing on what matters, and for not making the purchase of a General Mills product a matter of small print, law or coercion, rather than a purchase from a company focused on its business and customers. You said it best, General Mills rarely has disputes with customer, and therefore why leave a bad tasted in the mouths of your customers by forcing arbitration. I know that going forward I will look to see if a product is made by General Mills, and if so, I will be more likely to make the purchase. Thank you.

    • JeffersonRFO

      OMG. But nicely tried, General Mills social media intern! Next time, though, try to make your piece sound as though it’s not dictation from a CEO. Consider this for your next assignment: Pretend you’re an actual person, going about his or her daily life with far, far, far, far, far more things to think about than the reputation of a distant conglomerate–and then write. You’ll see the con sounds way different.

  • Martin Gasman

    “streamlined” how Goebbelesque!

  • 7thAmendmentAdvocate

    Deleting the arbitration clause is the right move and the smart move. One caution: You say arbitration clauses “don’t cause anyone to waive a valid legal claim.” That is patently false, but that’s your lawyers talking. Today, mandatory arbitration clauses are crushing the 7th Amendment right to a jury trial for civil suits from coast to coast and for all types of products. Your episode will hopefully be the start of a nationwide discussion that reaches the halls of Congress and results in changes to arbitration law.

  • Garth Garthson

    The reason General Mills changed its policy is not because it was “widely misunderstood”, but because it was understood only too well. What self serving tripe, beneath the abilities of a three year old to evade the truth.
    Even posting on this blog required reading a ten page terms of policy. Corporate money junkies that just can’t help themselves, although they expect us to.

    • dsreyburn

      Yup. They should have just left it at “it was a bad idea on our part and we’re sorry it happened,” instead of insulting the intelligence of customers further.

  • Martin38

    I am a frequent customer of General Mills products. The thought of ever suing them was about the last thing on my mind. But one has to wonder why such a venerable and highly respected company would impose such a self-inflicted wound upon itself. Too many company lawyers talking to themselves in an echo chamber? The power of social media is unprecedented. The world of communications and PR has changed – forever. Lesson learned. I hope.

  • LPW2000

    You write your intentions were widely misunderstood. Explain your intentions so we may understand.

  • Joanie

    You never anticipated such a reaction? Even small-potatoes entrepreneurs know that if given their way, lawyers will draft outrageous clauses that assign the rights to all things at all times throughout the known universe because that’s what lawyers do. That’s why anyone who runs a business successfully knows to curb the lawyers so as not to chase away clients/customers. This is a massive failure on the part of the leadership at General Mills. How much money is the CEO paid to be an inept boob?

  • Frank Furter

    Too late for me! I will avoid your products for years. How slimy.

  • Matthew Browne

    Thank you for listening to your customers and the concerns of the general public. To better understand the valid concern about mandatory arbitration, see the documentary “Hot Coffee”.

  • Frank Buckley

    Danged good thing – also for your shareholders. I do wonder what will happen to those that thought up this nincumpoop idea in the first place.

  • George Fernandez

    Arbitration takes the process away from the law and judges. The public
    sees this as just that and has had prior evidence of it being the case.
    Good for General Mills to reposition itself. Corporate America is
    increasingly becoming a public unfriendly arena (think banks). Good to
    see General Mills sees that Public rights and forthrightness should be
    paramount.

  • Rob

    Never imagined the reaction? Really? Get some people that actually pay attention to the net rather than lawyers that just drool at precedents like Concepcion. There’s been plenty of backlash against binding arbitration what do you think made GM special?

    Companies that had the previous backlash you had to sign a contract with. Your changes included dealings on third party web sites. You really didn’t think the net was going to run with that?

  • Rob Levine

    Oh please. People know that arbitration is a rigged system in favor of the corporations. Tell the truth.

  • lkt

    Good job in listening to your customers!

  • Jagdar

    Arbitration clauses may not waive a valid claim. They do, however, deprive consumers of access to courts where they may receive fairer hearings. There is good reason for consumers to have been annoyed. I have enjoyed Cheerios since I was a child (too many years ago), and have never had a problem. Regardless, this kind of liability paranoia by companies is extremely offensive. I did not complain or write in. I would simply have stopped purchasing GM foods.

  • Nancy Moïse Haws

    I don’t doubt for a moment that General Mill’s fully understood the legal implications of the now abandoned the terms of using their website. The surprise is that it got noticed. The only thing your legal and PR staff have going for them now is the short attention span of the public.

    I would ask that in addition to an apology that shirks responsibility back to the consumer, General Mills might demonstrate industry leadership and establish that henceforth, none of your products will ever have GMO ingredients.

  • tinmanic

    So now you’re blaming your consumers for misreading and misunderstanding your policy?

    Arbitration is a method of resolving disputes outside of court. That’s the whole point of arbitration. Arbitration proceedings can be kept confidential instead of court proceedings, which are public. Arbitration decisions have limited ways of being of appealed. Arbitration usually does not involve a jury of one’s peers.

    Arbitration very much involves precluding the right to sue and have one’s dispute resolved in court. You are lying if you say otherwise.

  • YOUR CEO AND LAWYERS ARE SCUM

    GO OUT OF BUSINESS YOU CRAP COMPANY!!!! FIRE YOU MORON LAWYERS AND “FIRE THE LAZY CEO” THAT EVEN ALLOWED THIS TO HAPPEN. P*** POOR COMPANY YOU ARE.

  • Tiffany Keeler

    I understood what the new terms meant. And I still think that were a load of hogwash.

    How dare you even considering how to preempt the manner in which people pursue legal action in this way? If General Mills caused harm to its consumers through gross negligence, public lawsuit (not private arbitration) must be an option. To try and remove this right from people who had provided you with free PR via social media is an astounding misjudgement of your consumer base. To try and play all those upset with the new rules as ill-informed or even maligned against General Mills is ridiculous.

    As for myself, I am glad General Mills has seen the error of this approach, but I am still concerned that this approach was not only purposed but finalized and published as policy on your website. Beware of future missteps, lest you lose the fans you’ve gained for good.

    • http://www.xxx.com NoName

      Have baken instead ,, teach them a lesson

  • Robb

    What this post should have said:

    “We’re sorry. We were wrong in overreaching. We love our customers and want everyone to trust that we’re trying to do the best we can for our customers. We will review our internal policies to make sure that we do not overreach in the future.”

    What this post actually said:

    “You were all wrong in reading a legal contract. The arbitration clause really didn’t have any legal effect at all. We don’t understand why everyone was so mad. All companies do this, so why can’t we? We’re sorry you were all wrong and misunderstood. We reverted the contract back to the old one even though the new one was better. But whatever. Here you go.”

    First, if the arbitration clause did not have any legal effect, then why was it in the terms? The only reason it was in there was for intimidation purposes only. This is the only reason for such non-legally binding clauses to exist. Or, your legal team were the ones who misunderstood.

    Second, the post didn’t apologize until the very end of it, and it was a half-hearted apology that only apologized for “starting down this path,” which means nothing. This only reads as, “We’re sorry for making this decision,” which in turn reads as, “I’m sorry that I’m going to have to fire you. Please accept my apology.”

    Third, arbitration clauses do not benefit consumers. They only benefit companies, and that’s why so many companies have them. Do not try to reverse this around by attempting to state that these companies have them to benefit their customers. Consumers want the right to sue, in front of a jury, and to make the proceeding as public as possible. Companies do not. Period.

    Your post should be deleted and rewritten with YOUR CUSTOMER in mind. Note that I said “customer,” not consumers in general. No where in your post did you mention this.

  • Walt Bennett

    “At no time was anyone ever precluded from suing us by purchasing one of our products at a store or liking one of our Facebook pages. That was either a mischaracterization – or just very misunderstood.”

    Could you elaborate?

  • Betsy S

    Not good enough. I’m never buying General Mills again. Give up the GMOs as you just gave up the litigation nonsense.

  • George H. Friedman

    Good for you!

    To be clear, my concern was not with arbitration but with the lack of a clear agreement to arbitrate. As I said in my blog post last week, “I believe in arbitration. It performs precisely as its proponents say: it is fast, fair, and economical.” My beef was with the secret foisting of arbitration on unwitting consumers. As I said, “To be clear, I am not troubled if the consumer, after getting clear notice of the arbitration agreement, chooses to accept it.”

    I continue to believe arbitration is a much better place than court for consumers, and that given a choice they should opt for arbitration. Moreover, class action litigation is not the consumer’s best friend,with the typical payout being cents on the dollar or a discount coupon. In arbitration, parties have the opportunity to recover their entire loss.

    • battlepriest

      Arbitration CAN be a better choice for consumers. It can also be a damage-limiting trap that prevents consumers from receiving proper compensation.

  • bonilloa

    A company that listens to its customers — rare, indeed. Good job, General Mills!

    In a time where customers are continually marginized in terms of voice, it’s good to see such responsiveness. Try getting that from your comglomerated cable provider!

    Thanks again, GM.

  • tinmanic

    Is there a reason you don’t allow comments on your blog posts? Because this post should be filled with lots of comments pointing out your company’s money-grubbing exaltation of your shareholders over your customers.

  • Pat Kapsner

    Too late folks, methinks your short sighted consumer practices, even though since reversed due to customer outrage, have lost you a good customer forever. No more Gold Medal Flour, Cheerios, Green Giant veggies, Pillsbury or Betty Crocker baking products, Progresso soups or any other General Mills products will ever be purchased for this household again, eh?

    • SandyWT

      Thanks, Pat, for letting me know that Progresso soups were from General Mills. I will include that product in my “do not eat or buy” list. I’m going to search for General Mills products so that I know to avoid them. What an evil company to try such a scheme. What else (and what other creepy ingredients) are they trying to slip by the public. I am going to warn my students and others about this attempt to hurt the public.

  • MurraySuid

    This is a terrific post, a model that should be followed by other corporations. You give the legal verbiage, but you also demonstrate that there are real people at your company. As a long-time consumer of your products, I was disheartened by the heavy-handed (if misunderstood) original change in your policy. That was badly done however you analyze it. But your apology is wonderfully done, a credit to those who figured it out and to the wordsmiths as well.

    • Meaghan Farwell

      u know the cereal tastes like cardboard…

  • phoper

    It is too late, your intentions were brutally honest, your attitude towards your customers has been revealed. There will always be someone who makes something similar to your products. That is what I will purchase.

    • http://www.xxx.com NoName

      you got it piss on them .. totally agree ,,

  • lifeson22

    Please. Waiving the right to sue would have given GM control over the outcome of a dispute. It’s great that you guys are backtracking, but you knew from the beginning what you were doing – unless your lawyers and executives are made of solid wood.

    Either way, as punishment, I am abstaining from buying GM products over the next year. Please don’t try these gimmicks again.

    • http://www.xxx.com NoName

      eat bacon ..

  • lifeson22

    Not really going to post any comments that don’t conveniently align with your marketing goal of making GM look nice, are you? Nah. Just ignore all inconvenient posts and pretend there was some technical glitch.

    Well, ok. But you cannot censor readers in other forms, such as the Washington Post.

  • http://lubetkinsotherblog.blogspot.com PodcastSteve

    Its a shame that no one between the legal and communications departments anticipated how this would be perceived. Chqnging any TOS today is not going to escape notice in the digital world. Someone should have been asking the question, and your lawyers should have been listening.

  • Dave

    I call BS. You make changes that amount entering to a binding legal agreement if I get a coupon or buy a box of cereal. Then you’re nice enough to say we can go to arbitration and use your arbiter if I have a problem (wonder who would win that case). Afterwards there is an outcry on the web so you decide it’s better for the bottom line to back off. Did I miss anything?

  • TestSalad

    Wow, what an incredible bitter response!

    Sorry for wanting to retain our rights!

  • William E

    This is a great move and a surprising one at that. FYI, as much as arbitration is touted as being “lower cost,” in the end, to consumers, it is disenfranchisement at its worst. Kudos for stepping up.

  • spartanbill

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

    But most lawyers won’t get involved on the consumers’ side of an
    arbitration dispute both because of this unbalance and because damages
    are severely limited.

    Likewise, one consumer on her own may have a good case, but the cost
    of making that case far outweighs any damages she might receive. The
    U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that this is not a reason to invalidate a forced-arbitration clause.

    So the harmed consumer would either need to go deeply into debt or
    seek massive amounts of donations just to prove her case. And each
    harmed consumer would have to do this on his or her own. Thus, a
    company can get away with harming consumers so long as it is too
    expensive for any of the individual plaintiffs to make the case against
    the company.

    To us, this very much seems like cases in which arbitration causes someone “to waive a valid legal claim.” (copied from the Consumerist.com website)

  • Daniel Kim

    It takes courage and strength to reverse a public stance. General Mills is doing a good thing.

    • Meaghan Farwell

      they shouldn’t have done it in the first place….

  • JIMBO

    Hope the person(s) who came up with this inane idea and whoever approved it were duly reprimanded.

  • ScottyP

    In other words:

    “We’re sorry, but not really. It’s not our fault that our customers are stupid. People heard the words ‘forced arbitration’ and freaked out; silly little peons that they are. It’s really too bad that some deviants decided to spread misinformation about our perfectly innocuous intentions — after all, if you can’t trust a multinational corporation, who can you trust? Plus, we thought it was perfectly acceptable that we try to get away with this, since everyone else in corporate America is doing the exact same thing. Unfair? You darn well bet it is.

    Unfortunately, word got out and the jig is up. So, like, let’s all forget that this ever happened, k? (Our lawyers also said some stuff, but you can just ignore them.) Just keep on downloading those coupons that would’ve, not 24 hours ago, bitten you in the proverbial ass. Cool? Cool.”

  • Sayed Hashimi

    You guys are unbelievable. Taking advantage of the non technical folks who may not be aware of such outlandish terms to begin with. I for one will be passing on your products for a bit.

  • William Singourd

    And I was so fond your Heart-Healthy whole-grain yumminess! Now I find out that General Mills doesn’t have a heart!

    Bril Mill! Load a coupon with an unneeded poison pill! Subvert the useful intent of a very specific contract by attaching bluntly broad restraints!

    A coupon GIVES value to the buyer, it’s not supposed to TAKE anything (else) away. That would be an ANTI-COUPON.

    A good coupon program has two purposes – 1) give a temporary, margin tolerable discount TO INCREASE SALES, and 2) secure and strengthen brand identity (product AND Company) – TO INCREASE SALES.

    This initiative VOIDS the coupon itself, ie, it’s marketing power, and then goes on to disfigure the Company image. Ouch!

    Company lawyers must have the operating veto when it comes to illegally cutting operational & fiduciary corners. Sinking an established, successful marketing/merchandising channel – not so much.

  • big john ok

    So the public relations storm has hit the fan and your corporation
    reversed course after the PR person tried to spin things and tried to
    make it look like the lawyers are the bad people. Which is true but it
    was your corporate lawyers that wrote this policy and with using
    legalese your lawyers tried to take away the consumers freedom of
    choice, when it came to holding your company accountable. To quote
    Ambrose Bierce “Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining
    individual profit without individual responsibility.”

    Thanks
    for showing your true colors General Mills, you will never be removed
    from my black list of companies and corporations that I refuse to buy a
    product or service from anymore.

  • RoKphish

    General Mills must really think their customers are stupid.

  • Practicalist

    Way to get to the word “apologize” or “sorry”…..
    in the NINTH paragraph.

    And seriously, we all “misread” your policy? If we all misread it, why are you changing it back and “apologizing”.

    Let’s face it, you made a change in an attempt to benefit General Mills, and only General Mills, at the expense of your customers and you got caught. Instead of owning it from the beginning of this post and saying, “We made a decision that was shortsighted and morally wrong, and for that we apologize”, you instead post a disingenuous apology blaming your customers for reading what you wrote/changed incorrectly.

    The saving grace of all this, is that Frosted Flakes & Rice Krispies taste so good, many of us don’t need to buy your products.

  • Minerva

    While I appreciate the fact that you reversed the decision, the fact that you would try to blindly force arbitration on consumers who took the time to “like” your company just shows how evil of a corporation you are. Because you attempted to take away a constitutional right of your consumers, the people who keep you in business, I will no longer be purchasing Cheerios, which has been my favorite cereal since I can remember.

    Kirstie, I strongly recommend you find a new company to work for.

  • GhoulishCop

    Unfortunately, General Mills is still not accepting full responsibility for its actions. I’m sure they are indeed “sorry they even started down this path” — no doubt consumers remain furious at the company for this stupid measure — but if you notice at the top of the statement, they say they were “misread.” Sorry, that’s not the case at all. General Mills specifically said if you “use or join our site or online community” you become bound by the terms. There’s no ambiguity there at all, it wasn’t misread, it wasn’t misinterpreted.

    Stop trying to be mealy mouthed about this. Say “we f’d up and we’re going to make it right.” Don’t blame others for your mistake!

  • Todd

    I’m sorry too, I ca’nt willfully buy your products anymore, so yeah sorry. That statement sure sounds hollow doesn’t it GM.

  • battlepriest

    Trust is a valuable thing, as the company surely knows by now, if they did not know before this decision to attempt to suppress consumer’s rights was taken.
    The company has demonstrated that it was willing to “start down this path”, and by this have damaged that trust.
    It will take a lot more than an “oops, we’re sorry” to regain it.

  • SarcasticFantastic

    “…we never imagined this reaction”
    Really? Wow.

  • boriskist

    sorry you got caught is about it.

  • conservancy@MHR

    … my wife and I have discussed, at length, the new binding arbitration policy General Mills enterprise managers arbitrarily imposed, upon us. And, haven fallen suspicious, we’ve decided, we are no longer comfortable consuming General Mills products. If you please, we request a return voucher, for all General Mills products in our pantry, to be replaced, with the nearest complimentary brand. With respect to returning our General Mills products, please advise — asj.

  • Bill Olson

    It was a nice attempt at SPIN. The arbitrator is paid by the company raising the question of impartiality, in arbitration it is not possible to discover information from the company. The companies change was not misunderstood at all, it was completely understood. All companies have to understand, and our politicians as well, is that as long as their behavior is above reproach they have little to fear

  • http://www.radiationprevention.com Michael

    Shame on you for even trying. Preparing for the onslaught of GMO related lawsuits? Good practices warrant protection from legal proceedings, not shoddy disclaimers.

  • golflaw

    As a lawyer for 35 years I wish that General Mills could at least be honest in retreat. Someone in the executive suite did not like the fact that there are greedy lawyers filing bogus class action suits over labeling of food products. They have been sued like others in the business over frivolous claims and they either pay their lawyers or write a check to the ones bringing garbage suits. There, it has been said. This was their response. Problem was that they took an elephant gun to a pesky mosquito.

  • Steve K

    So, what you’re saying is that by commenting on this post I am giving up my right to litigation should I be poisoned or otherwise harmed by your product? Instead, I must go to a non-judicial court where you have paid for the venue and paid for the judge (read: arbitrator) and expect a fair hearing?

    Forced arbitration is a terrible idea, even if other companies are doing it. It is heavily stacked against the victim.

    You have bad policies and you should feel bad.

  • SandyWT

    I did not have time to read the privacy policy, terms of use, or community rules. However, I do not give up my rights to make decisions about which products to buy–and, as God is my witness, I will never buy General Mills products again. I will research and determine what products are by General Mills, and make conscious decisions to “not purchase.”
    Rest assured, General Mills, you will not have me as a customer again. I promise.

  • SLchica

    How in the world is arbitration “helpful” for consumers? Further, I, as a consumer, never misunderstood the new terms and resent that assumption. How condescending of you. I would want a day in court (sooner rather than the whole arbitration process) and would not want forced arbitration by people YOU choose/hire. I’m glad you reversed your terms, and I hope that other companies follow suit. Not sure, though, if Cheerios will enter my house again.