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Is marketing the next Y2K issue?

The latest Year 2000 lawsuit points the finger of responsibility at companies marketing computer equipment that hasn't made the Y2K grade.

The onslaught of Year 2000 lawsuits is trickling down from manufacturers to the companies selling the technology.

AT&T and Lucent Technologies have been slapped by a class action Y2K lawsuit that alleges the companies violated consumer protection laws and breached warranties by knowingly marketing Y2K noncompliant products.

Back to Year 2000 Index Page The lawsuit was filed by New York-based law firm Beatie and Osborn LPP on behalf of all individuals or entities who purchased, leased, or acquired telecommunications equipment sold by the two companies. The suit seeks damages or repairs or replacement with systems that do not have the defect.

According to the lawsuit, the phone service giant and telecommunications equipment maker Lucent have told customers that failure to correct the Y2K problem will result in telephone system shutdowns and corrupted data after December 31, 1999, and also said the Y2K problems could be corrected, in some cases for $8,000 or more per system.

AT&T and Lucent were not immediately available for comment.

"Lucent and AT&T knew the equipment was defective," lawyers for the plaintiff said in a statement. "In some cases the purchaser or lessee received a document saying in large letters that the telecommunications system, which was acquired by the customer and which had the defect, had 'a powerful new platform that will carry your business beyond the Year 2000 with state-of-the-art memory technology.'"

In the lawsuit the lawyers contend that the two companies have shirked their responsibility to correct the Y2K problem by recently filing court papers which seek to dismiss the lawsuit because the plaintiffs have yet to suffer any damage or spend money upgrading their systems.

The so-called millennium bug refers to the fact that many 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, handle their accounts, run elevators, and monitor air traffic, some experts warn.