Year 2000 lawsuit bandwagon gathers speed

While Intuit set a legal precedent in the US last week -- charged over year 2000 upgrades -- Australia may be the next port of call for millennium-generated lawsuits.

Local companies are already mired in legal battle, according to Chris Bevitt, an IT partner at law firm Middletons Moore & Bevins. One such local vendor, stumped by financial difficulty, is unable to fulfil year 2000 compliancy promises, according to Bevitt.

Bevitt, who would not name the vendor, said: "I'm surprised there haven't been more [cases]. A lot more are likely to arise a little closer to year 2000 when people start to get more motivated."

The class action lawsuit filed last week by a New York law firm against Intuit in the New York State Supreme Court alleges that Intuit failed to inform customers that some versions of its Quicken personal finance software are not ready for 2000 as well as not offering adequate remedies for the problem.

Not only were financial aspects of the program not millennium-compliant as late as last October, it did not warn users of the problem and its customers were expected to pay $35 for a compliancy upgrade, the lawsuit said.

Filed on behalf of all purchases of Quicken releases 5 and 6 Windows and Mac, the lawsuit seeks damages and a free remedy of non-compliance.

In a prepared statement, Intuit officials have said the lawsuit is "completely without merit" and intends to "defend vigorously against it".

Similar claims are also under investigation against other suppliers trying to charge for millennium-compliant upgrades, US lawyers have reportedly said. Bevitt said the Australian equivalent to the US consumer protection law allegedly broken in the Intuit case, is the Trade Practices Act, which contains no parallels to the main complaint in the Intuit case of not telling customers about the defect.

Section 71 of the Trade Practices Act, however, says goods must be fit for the purpose they were bought for, and Section 52 prohibits engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct in trade or commerce, Bevitt said.

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