R2D2 is widely known among movie buffs as one of the robots in Star Wars. While power surges could wreak havoc with R2D2's programming, the robot didn’t have to worry about the Y2K problem -- shorthand for the failure of computer systems to recognize the year 2000 as a date -- because he lived in a galaxy far, far away.
In an effort to determine the impact on movie goers and other consumers of the failure of computer systems to process, store, display, or use dates correctly beginning in the year 2000, the Federal Trade Commission today published a Federal Register notice seeking public comment on the scope of the potential problem. Estimates of the costs for industry and government to fix Year 2000 problems vary widely. For example, the Federal Reserve recently said it believes industry will spend $50 billion or more to fix its computer systems.
In its notice, the Commission specifically seeks comment on what types of computer software and electronic products are likely to experience Y2K problems, as well as what steps have been taken or will be taken by software publishers, electronics manufacturers, and others to notify consumers of any anticipated Y2K problems and how to remedy such problems. The agency also wants to learn how various segments of the consumer financial services industry, including finance companies, consumer credit reporting agencies and other businesses, will be affected. In addition, the notice seeks comment on the public’s interest in the Commission holding workshops on Y2K issues.
"To be helpful to consumers in the future, we need to focus on the potential problem, the solutions that industries and government agencies are contemplating, and the impact on consumers," Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said. "We’ll be sharing our findings with industry and consumers. Ideally, the comments will lead to discussions of solutions that will benefit everyone. For example, if hardware or software solutions are impractical for some consumer products, will companies offer refunds, rebates, or replacements? We are seeking creative approaches for these new challenges."
The Commission vote to publish the Federal Register notice was 5-0. The deadline for comments is June 22, 1998.
Copies of the Federal Register notice are available from the FTC’s web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202- 382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. Comments also may be sent via e-mail and should be addressed to <email@example.com>(no period). To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
Elaine D. Kolish,
Bureau of Consumer Protection
(information about consumer products)
Bureau of Consumer Protection
(information about consumer financial services)
(FTC File No. P984238)