Businesses that have made statements regarding their plans to deal with the year 2000 problem have until tomorrow to file notices that would put them in compliance with the Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act.
The act, signed by President Clinton on Oct. 19, was designed to open the flow of communication between businesses and their clients about the Y2K problem. In short, the act says businesses will not be held liable for good-faith statements they made about their ability to deal with the problems associated with computers that do not recognize and cannot compute the year 2000. The act applies only to business-to-business relationships, not business to consumer.
"Many organizations have been reluctant to share valuable information about their experiences in dealing with the Y2K problem or the status of their efforts for fear of lawsuits," Clinton said when he signed the bill. "The act's limited liability protections will promote and encourage greater information sharing. However, the bill will not affect liability that may arise from Y2K failures of systems or devices."
Statements regarding Y2K preparedness that were made after July 14 are automatically covered. But statements made between Jan. 1, 1996, and July 14, 1998, will be covered only if a business seeks out that protection, said Marc Pearl, general counsel and senior vice president of government affairs for the Information Technology Association of America, who helped draft the measure.
To obtain that protection, notices must be sent to all customers of the business who previously received information about its Y2K plans. The information may be sent by mail, phone, fax or e-mail, Pearl said. Recipients of the notices have 45 days in which to object to the classification of past statements as readiness disclosures.
On Web site
If a business has designated its World Wide Web site as the sole source for its Y2K information, then a notice may simply be posted on the site, Pearl said, and clients will have 180 days in which to file objections, which may be done by simply sending the company a letter stating disagreement with the disclosure.
The notices must specify which statement is being designated as a Readiness Disclosure statement, include a copy of the previous statement, and be labeled "Year 2000 Readiness Disclosure."
"Hopefully more and more people will begin sharing information about this system," Pearl said. "That's the only way we're going to get through this."
Pearl said it's impossible to say how many notices will be distributed.
"One information technology company informed me if it was to take advantage of the retroactive clause it would have to send individual notices to 800,000 customers," he said. "To be totally honest, companies have to make determinations if there is a cost benefit to contacting 800,000 clients."
The Web sites www.y2k.gov or www.itaa.org/govt/y2k/guidelines.htm may be accessed for more information.
Pub Date: 12/02/98