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Senators Reject Key Consumer Provisions on Y2K Bill

June 11, 1999

Senators Reject Key Consumer Provisions on Y2K Bill

Amendments to Protect Individuals and Small Businesses Fall

Last night Senators voted to reject two key amendments to allow consumers and small businesses to hold accountable manufacturers whose products malfunction on January 1, 2000.

One, presented by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), would have assured consumers who bought a defective computer after January 1, 1995 that the manufacturer would fix the problem, if it could, at no charge, or at cost if the computer was bought before January 1, 1995.

“The 66 to 32 vote to kill the Boxer amendment shows that the full-court press mounted by the Chamber of Commerce, the high-tech industry and other wealthy interests on this bill is paying off, and at the expense of consumers and small businesses,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook.

The other, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), would have excluded consumers from the harmful legal limitations of the bill but failed by 65 votes to 32. The Senate’s rejection of these amendments shows that S. 96 has nothing for consumers but is simply a giveaway to special interest lobbyists. The bill continues to:

Hurt small businesses and individuals that suffer the ill effects of Y2K failures. Every provision continues to make it more difficult for consumers and small businesses who suffer losses from Y2K failures to be compensated.

Provide a disincentive to Y2K remediation now. It continues to send the wrong signal to those who sold non-compliant Y2K products: Congress will shield them from full liability for Y2K failures, so they don?t need to worry about making their best efforts to prevent Y2K failures.

Not require that a single defective computer chip or software program be fixed. While the bill delays consumer actions to recover losses for 90 days, nothing in the bill requires that anything be done during that period to fix the Y2K failures quickly and for an affordable price.

“Requiring fixes of Y2K defects should be the minimum requirement of any Y2K measure,” said Claybrook. “Senate passage would protect the very same corporations that knowingly created the Y2K defect for their own profit and have failed to fix the defect,” said Claybrook. “The bill would pre-empt existing state laws that give consumers and small companies access to the courts.”

The final Senate vote on the Y2K Liability Limit bill is set for Tuesday, June 15. Despite their vociferous pleading over the past months that the bill must be passed immediately, proponents of the measure postponed the vote to coincide with the National Summit on High Technology, being held in Washington June 14-16, allowing hundreds of CEOs — including Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, IBM Chairman Louis V. Gerstner, Intel President Craig Barrett, TechNet President Robert Katz, Adobe Systems Chairman John Warnock, and Novell Chairman Eric Schmidt — to lobby for this special legal shield.

U.S. Senators Who May Vote Against Consumers and Small Businesses on Getting Y2K Defects Fixed

Senator Bryan (D-NV)
Senator Reid (D-NV)
Senator Byrd (D-WV)
Senator Moynihan (D-NY)
Senator Robb (D-VA)
Senator Baucus (D-MT)
Senator Kerrey (D-NE)
Senator Murray (D-WA)
Senator Kohl (D-WI)
Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Senator Roth (R-DE)
Senator Specter (R-PA)
Senator Thompson (R-TN)
Senator Campbell (R- CO)

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