April 2, 1998 12:00 PM PST

Y2K bug in court again

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The millennium bug is at the heart of yet another lawsuit filed against a software developer charged with selling products that fail to recognize and process dates starting in the year 2000.

A law firm representing a Connecticut-based company has filed a suit in an Ohio court against Macola , accusing the accounting software maker of breach of warranty and fraud in connection with the failure of its Macola Progression Series Software 6.0, to process dates beginning in 2000 correctly, according to a statement by the law firm.

"The defects concern the inability of the Progression Series software [prior to Versions 6.2 and 7.0, which were recently introduced] to recognize and process dates starting in the year 2000," according to the statement.

The millennium bug refers to the fact that most computers are programmed to register only the last two digits of the year, meaning that 2000 may be read as 1900. If left uncorrected, such programs could generate errors and scramble the computers that companies use to keep track of customers, run their payrolls, and handle their accounts.

The case is one of many filed in the last seven months regarding the Year 2000 problem and represents a growing legal trend, observers say.

In August, a Detroit-area produce supplier filed suit because its cash registers can't handle sales billed to credit cards expiring in the year 2000. And in February, a suit was filed against Symantec on behalf of customers of Norton AntiVirus software, alleging breach of warranty and other claims in connection with Symantec's flagship product, which the complaint says cannot recognize the year 2000.

That suit came a month after a New York hardware company filed a similar complaint seeking $50 million from software maker SBT Accounting Systems. Both suits seek class-action status, meaning that other aggrieved parties also could become plaintiffs in the litigation.

The case filed against Macola is also a class-action suit, filed on behalf "of all persons and entities who purchased Macola Progression Series Software, Version 6.0," according to the statement.

In contrast to many other software companies, which are correcting the Year 2000 problems and providing those corrections free of charge, the complaint alleges, Macola is improperly requiring its customers to pay substantial fees to purchase upgrades in order to remedy the defect.

The suit comes just two days after the Clinton administration warned that "the clock is ticking" for small businesses, who need to prepare their computer systems for the year 2000 or risk lawsuits and business failures.

 

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