The President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion today introduced 1-888-USA-4-Y2K, a new free Y2K information line, and other Council initiatives for providing consumers information about the Year 2000 (Y2K) computer problem.
Council Chair John A. Koskinen joined Jodie Bernstein, Director of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection, and Sara Cooper, Executive Vice President of the National Consumers League, at an FTC press conference to launch the information line, which will be supported by the General Services Administration's Federal Information Center (FIC) and the FTC.
"1-888-USA-4-Y2K is a key part of our ongoing efforts to make available information that will help Americans respond appropriately to the Y2K problem as we move through this year," said Koskinen. "We are committed to providing consumers the latest information on how the problem may, or may not, affect government services, banks, household appliances, and other things they depend upon in their daily lives."
1-888-USA-4-Y2K offers free information of interest to consumers in common areas such as power, telephones, banking, government programs, and household products. Information for the line comes from primary sources -- government agencies, companies, or industry groups. Pre-recorded information, which is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day, is available on the most common topics, and information specialists supported by researchers are available to provide additional information to callers. Information specialists will staff the line from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST), Monday - Friday.
"Consumers who want to know how computers in the Year 2000 will continue to deliver Social Security checks or how airlines will handle the Y2K problem now have a new tool," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The FTC is pleased to work with the President's Council and the FIC to provide this information. 1-888-USA-4-Y2K will provide timely, accurate information on how computers will be able to deliver goods and services in the Year 2000."
At the end of the month, the FIC will make available a "fax-on-demand" system, to provide callers with printed information on the Y2K problem at the touch of a telephone button.
The Council also announced two other initiatives for providing Y2K information to consumers: the release of its first quarterly summary report on industry assessments of Y2K progress and the creation of a special consumer information area on the Council's web site.
The quarterly report, the first of four the Council will release in 1999, provides summaries of existing industry assessments for key areas such as communications and finance as well as information on public sector Y2K efforts. These assessments, the bulk of which come from major industry trade associations, are being gathered by the Council's more than 25 working groups; many industry trade associations are in the early stages of gathering information from their members.
"Based on the data we have seen thus far, we are increasingly confident that there will not be large-scale disruptions among banks and in the power and telecommunications industries," said Koskinen. "But one thing is clear: everyone has a lot of work left to do. We are most concerned about organizations that don't have the Y2K problem as a high priority. They are the source of our greatest risk."
Progress among some smaller governments and businesses remains a concern. And despite an increase in activity in other countries, international failures are likely and could have a significant impact upon areas that rely heavily upon cross-border operations.
The Council is working to ensure that the assessments summarized in the report are available in their entirety through its web site at www.y2k.gov. The next summary report is scheduled for release in April 1999, but individual assessments will be released to the public in the interim as they become available.
The Council has also expanded its web site, creating a separate area devoted entirely to consumer issues and the Year 2000 problem. This portion of the site contains information similar to that which is available on the 1-888 line, but enables users to go one step further and link directly to the agencies, companies, and industry groups that are the primary sources for much of the existing information on Y2K efforts.
The FTC has three publications for consumers on Y2K: one on consumer electronic products, one on home office equipment and one on personal finances. These publications are available online from the FTC at www.ftc.gov and through the FTC's Consumer Response Center, 202-FTC-HELP. The FTC also has a Business Fact Sheet urging businesses to disclose the Y2K status of their products to their customers.
The President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, established on February 4, 1998 by Executive Order 13073, is responsible for coordinating the Federal Government's efforts to address the Year 2000 problem. The Council's more than 30 member agencies are working to promote action on the problem and to offer support to public and private sector organizations within their policy areas. Visit the Council via the Internet at www.y2k.gov .
Michelle Muth (FTC)