"Y2K? Y 2 Care" is the theme of five business and consumer publications released today by the Federal Trade Commission as part of National Y2K Action Week, October 19-23. The week is an initiative of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion and is intended to motivate small and medium-sized businesses to address the Year 2000 computer problem. One popular name for the Year 2000 problem or the Y2K computer glitch -- the "millennium bug" -- refers to the possibility that some computers and computerized systems will fail to correctly recognize dates after 1999.
"The countdown to the Year 2000 has begun in earnest," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "And this week is an ideal time to focus on how an effective public/private partnership can help take the sting out of the 'millennium bug' and minimize any negative impact on consumers."
As a member of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, the FTC began a special business and consumer outreach effort in May 1998 that included seeking public comment on the impact of Y2K issues on financial services and consumer products. Based on the comments it received, FTC representatives have been meeting regularly with industry and consumer groups to learn more about the possible problems consumers and manufacturers may encounter, and to develop ways to ensure that consumers are informed about any remedies that may be available to fix them.
Financial Services: Running the Numbers and Protecting Your Bottomline
Many consumer financial services providers, such as banks, mortgage companies, investment firms, and credit card issuers rely on computer systems to perform a variety of date-sensitive functions, including calculating interest and other charges; tracking deposit, loan, and lease payments; transferring funds electronically; and producing billing or other periodic statements.
Two of the items released today address financial services and how consumers and industry can reduce any negative impact of Y2K issues on their bottomlines. Among the suggestions in the Consumer Alert, "Y2K? Y 2 Care: Preparing Your Personal Finances for the Year 2000," are:
The FTC Business Alert, "Y2K? Y 2 Care: 7 Steps to A Successful Transition For Consumer Financial Service Providers," highlights some general guidelines for industry. The brochure suggests:
Consumer Products: Will the Clock Keep on Ticking?
A few weeks ago, the FTC conducted an informal surf of the websites maintained by the manufacturers of many consumer products and found that there was more that companies could do to educate consumers about potential Year 2000 problems. While home-office equipment manufacturers are doing a fairly good job of providing product-specific Y2K information, the survey showed that the producers of consumer electronics and home appliances containing microchips are not yet systematically providing such information.
On September 28, the agency released a Business Alert, entitled "Y2K? Y 2 Care: Communicating Product Compliance to Your Customers," which suggests:
As a follow up to this Business Alert, the FTC today released two Consumer Alerts about Consumer Products. The alert, titled "Y2K Y 2 Care: Information-Technology and Home-Office Products," explains that personal computers may have Y2K problems because the microchips are programmed to use a month, date, and year calendar function. While home-office products such as scanners, copiers and printers may contain embedded chips, they generally don't have calendar functions and should not have Y2K problems. According to manufacturers, most current models of fax machines, which do have calendar functions, won't have Y2K problems; however, older models may use the wrong dates. The alert suggests:
The second Consumer Alert, "Y2K? Y 2 Care: Consumer Electronic Products," notes that a variety of consumer products use microchips, including some small and large appliances, heating and cooling equipment, home entertainment audio/video products, photographic equipment, wristwatches, calculators, pocket electronic organizers, thermostats and security systems. Programmable microwave ovens and coffeemakers, for example, are not likely to have Y2K problems because they have clock and not calendar functions. Other products, such as refrigerators and heating and cooling equipment, may have chips that keep track of cycles rather than dates; therefore, they too are unlikely to have Y2K problems. The alert recommends that consumers check with the manufacturers of many of these products to learn whether they will continue to work after January 1, 2000.
NOTE: For more information on National Y2K Action Week, please visit www.y2k.gov or call 1-800-U-ASK-SBA.
Copies of the full text of the entire series of "Y2K? Y 2 Care" consumer and business publications 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. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
(FTC File No. P984238)