When ‘Liking’ a Brand Online Voids the Right to Sue

jnpy!$4g3cwk

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Feb 11, 2010
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This story has been all over today. But, it still disturbs me when I think about it. Back when I was a wee lad, they always told us in school that you can't sign away your Constitutional rights. Well, sure, your rights are not enforceable in a civilian court when you are in the military, etc. But, a non-felon not in the military, etc., could not give up your rights by the trick of a pen. Although there were always lots of caveats, the idea was still appealing-- when push came to shove, you could get your day in court.

So, how about this idea from General Mills:

Might downloading a 50-cent coupon for Cheerios cost you legal rights?

General Mills, the maker of cereals like Cheerios and Chex as well as brands like Bisquick and Betty Crocker, has quietly added language to its website to alert consumers that they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons, “join” it in online communities like Facebook, enter a company-sponsored sweepstakes or contest or interact with it in a variety of other ways.

Instead, anyone who has received anything that could be construed as a benefit and who then has a dispute with the company over its products will have to use informal negotiation via email or go through arbitration to seek relief, according to the new terms posted on its site.

In language added on Tuesday after The New York Times contacted it about the changes, General Mills seemed to go even further, suggesting that buying its products would bind consumers to those terms.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/17/business/when-liking-a-brand-online-voids-the-right-to-sue.html?action=click&contentCollection=Asia%20Pacific&module=MostEmailed&version=Full&region=Marginalia&src=me&pgtype=article
 

0007776

Suspended
Jul 11, 2006
6,474
8,051
Somewhere
If this ever becomes an issue and goes to court I can't see those clauses standing up. You can claim that by doing something I give up rights, but that doesn't mean it is actually enforceable.
 

G51989

macrumors 68030
Feb 25, 2012
2,506
10
NYC NY/Pittsburgh PA
If this ever becomes an issue and goes to court I can't see those clauses standing up. You can claim that by doing something I give up rights, but that doesn't mean it is actually enforceable.
America is a corporate run state, they will stand up once the right people are paid.
 

jnpy!$4g3cwk

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Feb 11, 2010
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An example of why you should always read the fine print before agreeing to anything. No one forces you to download the coupon, like or become a fan.
So, you think it is OK for General Mills, and, presumably, every other company, to unilaterally decide that their customers must use binding arbitration? Can I do that? Presumably, anybody that I "interact with" has received a "benefit" (as defined by me!), and, therefore, can never sue me?

While we are on the subject, are you OK with AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion?

AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 321 (2011), is a legal dispute that was decided by the United States Supreme Court.[1][2] On April 27, 2011, the Court ruled, by a 5–4 margin, that the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 preempts state laws that prohibit contracts from disallowing class-wide arbitration, such as the law previously upheld by the California Supreme Court in the case of Discover Bank v. Superior Court.[3] By permitting contracts that exclude class action arbitration, the high court's decision will make it much harder for consumers to file class action lawsuits.[4][5][6][7]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AT%26T_Mobility_v._Concepcion
 

Southern Dad

macrumors 68000
May 23, 2010
1,532
547
Shady Dale, Georgia
or buy food?
It's not that they are buying food, they are choosing to purchase food with a coupon provided by the company to reduce the costs. The company has apparently put some terms in those coupons that people disagree with. This leaves them two options, pay full price for the food not using the coupon, or agree to the terms.
 

lannister80

macrumors 6502
Apr 7, 2009
476
17
Chicagoland
It's not that they are buying food, they are choosing to purchase food with a coupon provided by the company to reduce the costs. The company has apparently put some terms in those coupons that people disagree with. This leaves them two options, pay full price for the food not using the coupon, or agree to the terms.
Ahem:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconscionability

Unconscionability (known as unconscientious dealings in Australia) is a doctrine in contract law that describes terms that are so extremely unjust, or overwhelmingly one-sided in favor of the party who has the superior bargaining power, that they are contrary to good conscience. Typically, an unconscionable contract is held to be unenforceable because no reasonable or informed person would otherwise agree to it. The perpetrator of the conduct is not allowed to benefit, because the consideration offered is lacking, or is so obviously inadequate, that to enforce the contract would be unfair to the party seeking to escape the contract.
No rational person would agree that using a $0.50 coupon should void your ability to sue a company for legitimate damages.
 

lannister80

macrumors 6502
Apr 7, 2009
476
17
Chicagoland
Then what is the issue?
The issue is that this "contract" is unenforceable, and it should be removed from the terms for using a coupon.

Otherwise people have to go to court and gt them to agree that the contract is unenforceable, which costs $$. And the coupon issuer knows this, and hopes people using the coupon will be discouraged from suing due to the cost.
 

Southern Dad

macrumors 68000
May 23, 2010
1,532
547
Shady Dale, Georgia
The issue is that this "contract" is unenforceable, and it should be removed from the terms for using a coupon.

Otherwise people have to go to court and gt them to agree that the contract is unenforceable, which costs $$. And the coupon issuer knows this, and hopes people using the coupon will be discouraged from suing due to the cost.
So you want to demand that the company remove those terms from their coupons? Is the company required to issue coupons? Are people required to use coupons?
 

Renzatic

Suspended
So you want to demand that the company remove those terms from their coupons? Is the company required to issue coupons? Are people required to use coupons?
Are you so studious you read the terms and conditions on every little box of cookies you buy, or every coupon you clip from the newspaper?

No one can write a contract that allows you to sign away your rights. This is especially true of assumed contracts, where the expectations of you reading the fine print aren't necessarily expected, and you sign nothing to gain the benefit. Hostess couldn't slap "the opening of this package constitutes a binding contract, which henceforth secures us (Hostess) the right of possession of your firstborn child", and expect it to be legally binding. All you were expecting when you bought that box of Ho-Hos were some cookies to eat. You had no compelling reason to read the fine print, or assume that opening them acted as an agreement to certain terms and conditions.

So no, General Mills doesn't get a pass just because they're throwing some words around, and people failing to read the fine print on everyday activities, then realizing they've signed away certain guaranteed rights isn't them refusing to take responsibility for their actions.
 

quagmire

macrumors 603
Apr 19, 2004
6,255
1,061
So you want to demand that the company remove those terms from their coupons? Is the company required to issue coupons? Are people required to use coupons?
So Discount Airlines stipulates you can't sue them if you buy an airline ticket at the non-refundable rates(which is usually the lowest price) under a promotion deal. Plane crashes due to pilot negligence and the airline failed to properly check on the crews background, had shoddy training programs, etc. You survive, but can't sue the airline due to that clause....

You really don't have a problem with that clause?

Or you going to be that guy from Airplane? "They knew the risks when they bought their ticket. They knew what they were getting into. I say, let them crash". ;)
 

jnpy!$4g3cwk

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Feb 11, 2010
1,100
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So no, General Mills doesn't get a pass just because they're throwing some words around, and people failing to read the fine print on everyday activities, then realizing they've signed away certain guaranteed rights isn't them refusing to take responsibility for their actions.
I am sorry to say, and, I really mean it (warning: no irony for once), that I have lost confidence in the Supreme Court. I've never seen a court more openly favorable to wealth and power. It used to be something that we read about in history books.
 

AustinIllini

macrumors demi-goddess
Oct 20, 2011
10,724
7,341
Austin, TX
So Discount Airlines stipulates you can't sue them if you buy an airline ticket at the non-refundable rates(which is usually the lowest price) under a promotion deal. Plane crashes due to pilot negligence and the airline failed to properly check on the crews background, had shoddy training programs, etc. You survive, but can't sue the airline due to that clause....

You really don't have a problem with that clause?

Or you going to be that guy from Airplane? "They knew the risks when they bought their ticket. They knew what they were getting into. I say, let them crash". ;)
I worked at a customer site once and was told I needed to sign some forms from the customer before I could go. A number of the terms were reasonable, some minorly questionable (You won't sue us if something happens), but they put in a "mother hubbard clause" which basically implied if I used this company's product, I couldn't sue them for that either, even if it was after I left their site. This company makes medication. I consulted my lawyer and struck that portion of the agreement before I signed. I'm not surprised by any of this.
 

Huntn

macrumors demi-god
May 5, 2008
17,004
16,439
The Misty Mountains
Just because a Corporate behemoth says individuals lose their rights, does not make it reality. If push comes to shove, the courts will decide.
 

AustinIllini

macrumors demi-goddess
Oct 20, 2011
10,724
7,341
Austin, TX
READ WHAT YOU SIGN. If you choose not to read what you sign or agree to, then it is on you.
That's not the point. These types of clauses are unreasonable and restrict rights unjustly. I tend to be more right than most here, and even I'm baffled you don't understand this.
 

quagmire

macrumors 603
Apr 19, 2004
6,255
1,061
I worked at a customer site once and was told I needed to sign some forms from the customer before I could go. A number of the terms were reasonable, some minorly questionable (You won't sue us if something happens), but they put in a "mother hubbard clause" which basically implied if I used this company's product, I couldn't sue them for that either, even if it was after I left their site. This company makes medication. I consulted my lawyer and struck that portion of the agreement before I signed. I'm not surprised by any of this.
Yeah. It's like a company awhile back suing a customer for damages because they posted a negative review because there was a hidden clause that they couldn't post a negative review by using their product.