AT&T, Lucent subject of Y2K class action

A New York law firm has launched a class-action lawsuit against AT&T and its spin-off Lucent Technologies on behalf of individuals or entities who use telecommunications equipment from the companies that isn't year 2000-compliant.

Beatie and Osborn filed suits in New York Supreme Court and New Jersey Superior Court in January charging the companies with marketing and selling equipment they knew would cause problems when the calendar ticks over to 2000.

"They said in marketing materials that the product 'will carry your business beyond the year 2000', even though they knew there would be compatibility issues," said Curt Marshall, attorney with the eight-lawyer firm.

The suit also alleges that AT&T and Lucent violated state consumer-protection laws and breached warranties. A Lucent spokesperson said the charges were groundless.

"We've been working with customers for a long time on year 2000 issues," said Lynn Newman, the company spokesperson. "We went through our records to try to identify customers for whom this may be an issue."

All Lucent BCS (Business Communications Systems)-manufactured products made generally available on or after September 30, 1996 "are Y2K-compliant or we will make them compliant at our cost", Newman said. Most other customers are covered by service agreements and get year 2000 solutions for free, she said.

The lawsuits seek repair or replacement costs as well as an undetermined amount in punitive damages, Marshall said. He declined to specify how many entities had joined the class-action suit, or whether the law firm initiated the proceedings or was approached by interested parties. The suit covers a huge range of products, from switching systems to system-management products to videoconferencing systems.

Lucent has asked the judge in the New York case to dismiss the charges, Newman said. The companies have not yet responded to the complaint made in the New Jersey court, Marshall said.

The suit is not the first Y2K-related charge brought against Lucent, Newman said.

"We've had other actions but they've been settled, [though] how they were resolved and the terms are confidential," she said.

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