GPS Systems Could Lead Consumers Astray

Systems that Are Not "EOW Rollover" Ready Could Crash in August

For Release

Recreational boaters and pilots, hikers, campers, hunters and fishermen may get bitten by the Y2K bug long before January 1, 2000. That's because Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers used by recreational users to determine their location may fail on August 21, 1999 as the result of a GPS - End of the Week (EOW) "rollover" -- a system that calculates time and that resets GPS satellites every 1,024 weeks, or about every 20 years. The rollover may cause hand held GPS receivers to lose contact with the satellites that help them calculate their location; take more time than usual to locate the satellites; or appear to be working but display inaccurate positions, times or dates. GPS receivers may also be vulnerable to failure at the end of the year if they aren't Y2K compliant.

"Consumers who depend on GPS to calculate their location on land, sea or air could be putting themselves in harms way if their receivers are not able to process data correctly," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "We're urging consumers to check to make sure their GPS system is EOW rollover and Y2K compliant."

The Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, Department of Transportation, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the President=s Council on Year 2000 Conversion have issued a joint consumer update on the two dates associated with potential problems for consumer uses of GPS receivers.

The Department of Defense (DOD) says the date changes are unlikely to affect the operation of GPS satellites or DOD's ground control center. But GPS receivers that consumers use may be affected by the date changes. That can have important safety implications.

"GPS date change issues remind us that our increasing reliance on information technology has created new challenges," said John Koskinen, Chair of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion. "We want to help consumers get the information they need to meet them successfully and ensure continued safety in their recreational activities."

GPS users should check with their receiver manufacturer to find out if their receiver and applications are compliant. The U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center's web site http://www.navcen.uscg.mil/gps/geninfo/y2k/default.htm lists receiver manufacturers and contacts, as does the Y2K consumer hotline (1-888-USA-4-Y2K). Consumers will have to identify the model, serial number and firmware version or release date displayed on the start-up screen.

Copies of the consumer education materials about Y2K are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. Consent agreements subject to public comment also are available by calling 202-326-3627. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Claudia Bourne Farrell
Office of Public Affairs

202-326-2181
Staff Contact:
Roger Goldblatt
Bureau of Consumer Protection

202-326-3785