June 15, 1999
Senate Passes Y2K Microsoft/Intel/IBM Immunity Bill Despite Its Anti-Consumer, Anti-Small Business Provisions
Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook Calling for Presidential Veto
The Senate today voted to approve sweeping legislation that would grant legal immunity from liability to high-tech companies responsible for Y2K computer failures — including Microsoft, IBM, Intel and other big corporations. The bill, S. 96, 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.
The vote had been postponed from last week to allow the senators to present this special-interest legislation as a party favor for the high-tech executives who are in Washington for a high-technology summit. Meanwhile, those not invited to the party — the consumers and small businesses saddled with Y2K defective products — will be stuck with the bill.
Nothing in S. 96 would require that a single computer chip or defective product to be fixed. Last week the Senate refused to amend the bill to allow a modest amendment by Senator Boxer (D-CA) giving consumers and small business a free or low-cost fix for Y2K defective products if such a fix were available. Worshiping at the “high-tech” altar, senators rejected this and other attempts to help consumers and small businesses with Y2K failures.
Unfortunately, the Senate has acted to take away consumers’ and small businesses’ rights without any accurate knowledge of the scope of the problem or the kinds of injuries consumers and small businesses might suffer. So far the public has not been engaged on the issue. Only after failures that affect them directly occur next January will the public be outraged and condemn those who have so cavalierly discarded their right to be compensated for their losses.
The vote in the Senate, as was the earlier vote on H.R. 775 in the House, was not sufficient to override a presidential veto. President Clinton should protect consumers and small businesses by vetoing S. 96 as his senior advisors have recommended (Statement of Administration Policy, June 9, 1999).