January 7, 1999
Today, we are pleased to announce a new free telephone number for consumers to call with questions about Y2K. The number is 1-888-USA-4-Y2K.
With the year 2000 only 358 days away, consumers understandably are eager to know whether computers will be able to deliver goods and services they now take for granted. Consumers want to know will their electricity be on; will their Social Security checks continue uninterrupted; will their mail be delivered; will their coffee makers and microwaves work? The President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion; the Federal Trade Commission, chair of the Council's Consumer Affairs Working Group; and the other Council agencies are working to provide consumers with information about efforts to meet the Y2K challenge.
The free line is operated by the Federal Information Center. Consumers who call will hear a menu of information on some basic topics, for example what is the Y2K problem, will airlines and airports be able to handle the problem, will the phones work. In addition, information specialists will be available to answer questions. And, if the specialist doesn't know the answer, the consumer will be called as soon as the information is available.
The information that consumers will receive comes from data the FIC, the FTC and the Council have gathered from relevant agencies and the private sector. The FIC and FTC will work together to research answers to consumers' questions so callers get timely, accurate information. Of course, the information specialists at the free line cannot answer questions about specific brands and product models. Consumers should contact manufacturers for questions about specific products.
The FIC also will mail out fact sheets or brochures to answer consumers' questions. For example, the FTC has issued three publications for consumers: one on consumer electronic products, one on home office equipment and one on personal finances. These are available online from the FTC at www.ftc.gov and through the FTC's Consumer Response Center by calling, 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357). We've also issued a Business Fact Sheet urging businesses to disclose the Y2K status of their products to their customers. Although manufacturers and trade associations tell us the readiness news about many consumer electronic products is good, that message may not be reaching consumers. So, we're advising the private sector to make that information available through web sites and customer service representatives.
Consumers inquiries to the free line will let us know what people are concerned about. That, in turn, will help the government work even more effectively to provide information on the topics of greatest interest to consumers.
*This may not be an exact transcript of Ms. Bernstein's remarks.