May 12, 1999
House Passes Y2K Microsoft/Intel/IBM Immunity Bill
Leaders Don?t Allow Debate on Pro-Consumer Amendments
Statement of Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen
The House of Representatives today voted 236-190 to approve sweeping legislation that would grant special protections from liability to high-tech companies responsible for Y2K computer failures — including Microsoft, IBM, Intel and other big corporations. The bill, H.R. 775, proposes unprecedented preemption of state consumer protection laws and would make it difficult, if not impossible, for individual consumers and small businesses to recover fair compensation and hold wrongdoers accountable for Y2K failures.
Despite the serious impact this legislation would have, House members were not allowed to consider amendments that would: (1) protect consumers? rights by exempting them from the effects of the legislation (offered by Rep. Scott, D-Va.); (2) provide free fixes for small businesses and prevent profiteering by companies proposing to correct Y2K defects at unreasonable prices (offered by Rep. Berman, D-Calif.); and (3) deny special protections from liability for companies that were still selling Y2K non-compliant products, software and systems after Jan. 1, 1995 (offered by Rep. Ehlers, R-Calif.).
These critical amendments should have been debated by the full House of Representatives. There is not one provision in H.R. 775 that would require a single computer chip or defective product to be fixed, not one provision that would actually help a consumer or small business hurt by a Y2K failure. This bill pits the interests of big businesses that do not want to be held accountable for their defective products against small businesses and individual consumers who will be the ones hurt by Y2K. As one commentator has noted, this bill “looks like it was written by Bill Gates on a napkin while having cocktails with Donald Trump.”
Speaker Hastert rammed the Y2K immunity bill through the House without giving consumers a voice. By denying an opportunity for consideration of these amendments, the Speaker and Republican leaders are demonstrating, once again, that they do as told by the special interests, not what is in the public?s interest.