Welcome to more fun in 21st century litigation. Food conglomerate General Mills has implemented some interesting rules regarding digital coupons and social media. If someone downloads a coupon or likes the company on Facebook they may be surrendering their right to sue, instead a consumer must enter arbitration if any disputes arises.
When contacted by the New York Times, General Mills affirmed the policy and suggested “buying its products would bind consumers to those terms.”
The change in legal terms, which occurred shortly after a judge refused to dismiss a case brought against the company by consumers in California, made General Mills one of the first, if not the first, major food companies to seek to impose what legal experts call “forced arbitration” on consumers.
If clicking something on Facebook or even just buying the product is enough to surrender the right to sue a company then what value are the civil courts?
But apparently it’s not just General Mills getting into the forced arbitration game.
A growing number of companies have adopted similar policies over the years, especially after a 2011 Supreme Court decision, AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, that paved the way for businesses to bar consumers claiming fraud from joining together in a single arbitration. The decision allowed companies to forbid class-action lawsuits with the use of a standard-form contract requiring that disputes be resolved through the informal mechanism of one-on-one arbitration.
It’s almost like the Roberts Court is trying to help Big Business and plutocrats control the country without opposition.
Buyer beware has now extended to social networking, beware what you click. Of course then the question becomes what constitutes entering into one of these agreements. If liking on Facebook is enough what about merely visiting website?