General Mills, Inc. (NYSE:GIS), one of the largest food manufacturers worldwide and the producer of Cheerios cereals, Nature Valley granola bars, Yoplait yogurt and other food brands reverted a recent changes in its online legal policy after receiving criticism in social media.

General Mills

Recent online legal policy change

Last week, the New York Times reported that General Mills, Inc. (NYSE:GIS) silently changed its online legal policy and inserted a provision stating that consumers gave up their rights to file a lawsuit against the company if they download coupons, enter company sponsored sweepstakes, or join/like it on social networks such as Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB).

General Mills, Inc. (NYSE:GIS) changed its online legal policy after a judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by consumers against it in California. The changes makes the company one of the first, if not one of the major food companies to implement the so-called “forced arbitration” on consumers.

According to critics and legal experts, the new language added by General Mills, Inc. (NYSE:GIS) in its online legal policy could cost the rights of consumers to file a case against the company by just liking its pages on social networks, downloading its coupons, and entering contests sponsored by the company.

At first, General Mills, Inc. (NYSE:GIS) condemned media reports, saying that its new legal policy had been mischaracterized. The company also argued that its arbitration is a straightforward and efficient way to resolve disputes, and many companies implement the same strategy.

General Mills apologizes to consumers

General Mills, Inc. (NYSE:GIS) eventually reverted its online legal policy to its original version and apologized to consumers.

In a blog post, Kirstie Foster, the director of External Communications for General Mills, Inc. (NYSE:GIS) wrote that the new online legal policy changes were “widely misread, causing concern among consumers.”

According to her, the company “rarely have disputes with consumers” and “arbitration would have simply streamline how complaints are handled.” Foster added that many companies do the same and felt it would be helpful, but consumers didn’t like it so the company decided to change back to its online legal policy.

“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,” said Foster.

Furthermore, Foster wrote, “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.”