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[FYI] EU Commission's analysis of the Y2K problem

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/ European Communities, 1999. 

  Record Control Number: 13568

  Date: 1999-09-06

  Category: General policy

  General Information:

The potential havoc that may be unleashed on enterprises by the 
millennium bug has been well documented, but the affects on consumers 
have so far been neglected. A report produced for the European 
Commission, DG XXIV, entitled 'Y2K bug and the consumer' hopes to 
redress the balance.  

The report, prepared by Berlioz and Co, claims the European consumer 
may have to deal with substantial problems. 'Since the consumer is 
the end-user of products and services, he is not content with noting 
the adaptation by enterprises of their computer and electronic 
systems. The enterprises' difficulties will reverberate on their 
consumers, they will manifestly be the victims of difficulties in 
transition to the year 2000.'  

An in-depth analysis of the potential consequences consumers might 
face is included in the report, which provides advice on what 
precautions can be taken and what remedies are available.  

It claims that the extent of the bug is so huge that correction can 
only be partial - bugs will continue to nestle in hardware, 
programmes and micro processors, the effects of which will be 
difficult to predict. Consumers will be directly vulnerable from 
these potential errors, and should therefore take precautions to 
minimise the damage. Consumers should be aware of the legal 
protections that exist, including commercial guarantee, certificates 
and labels.  

The legal weapons provided by consumer law, law of sale, and ordinary 
laws of availability vary significantly between the different Member 
States, although European directives have attempted to achieve a 
degree of harmonisation.   

The risks are highest in the food and medical sectors, according to 
the report, where the consequences could be fatal. Where the risks 
are so high, consumers may wish to take their own precautions, and 
the report provides advice accompanied by an analysis of the legal 

Vulnerability will be particularly high on critical dates, of which 
there are many, and may lead to a domino effect. Although legal 
protection exists, the amount of legal actions in such a situation 
could topple the enterprises involved. The report outlines the need 
for Member States to sensitise consumers who 'without giving in to a 
wave of panic, have to prepare, be vigilant and try to avoid the 
damage rather than have to obtain an indemnification.'  

The potentially disastrous millennium bug refers to the possibility 
of mass computer failure, arising because most timing devices only 
acknowledge the last two digits of the year and may therefore 
interpret the century change incorrectly.  

Data Source Provider: European Commission, DG XXIV

Document Reference: Final report - 'Y2K Bug and the Consumer'.

Subject Index Codes: Information Processing, Information Systems

Contact Person:

A copy of this report can be downloaded from the DG XXIV website, at: