Retailers looking for more protection against Y2K issues

Retailers looking for more protection against Y2K issues

Manufacturers and retailers may be forced to attach an official logo or sticker to all PCs which guarantees them to be manufactured for Y2K compliance as the result of an Australian Retailers Association (ARA) summit last week.

The ARA called the meeting following the launch of consumer Y2K awareness programs by various government agencies around Australia including NSW and Victorian Fair Trading.

The campaigns were designed to alert the general populace to possible problems from January 1 next year with electrical devices such as VCRs, video and digital cameras, home security systems and much more, including PCs.

Since February 14 this year, press, radio and television commercials have been encouraging consumers to ask retailers whether a product is Y2K-ready. If it is not or the trader doesn't know, then buyers are advised to select another product that is "Y2K OK" or take their business elsewhere.

Although the ARA has no regulatory role over the industry, it is a powerful lobby group working on behalf of many major and minor retail organisations. As a result, it has in the past been able to exert pressure on regulatory bodies for the benefit of its members.

ARA's gathering of manufacturers, suppliers and retailers in the electronics industry was called to come up with a plan to address implications of the Y2K phenomenon on the retail industry.

Michael Lonie, executive officer, electronic commerce at ARA, said that while there was good attendance at the meeting and that some progress towards consensus was made, the computer industry was conspicuous by its absence.

"Clearly the meeting went well for those present," said Lonie. "The attendance from the computer industry representatives we invited was disappointing. Although a number of those not present did let us know what their position was on the matter."

Perhaps the most significant resolution to come from the gathering was the recommendation that a common logo should be established and attached to all affected product showing it to be Y2K-ready. This is a move that has also subsequently been mooted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Lonie said.

The ARA was happy with the advertising campaign conducted by Fair Trading, Lonie opined.

"One of the things to emerge from meetings with Fair Trading was that some of the advertising has clearly been very effective," he said. "People are becoming aware of the issue and many manufacturers who display compliance on their product indicated they observe a sales spike when the campaigns run."

According to Lonie, attendees agreed all products being sold on or after January 1, 1999 should be Y2K ready. If it is not, retailers will be seeking a replacement from manufacturers/suppliers. As the issue has been known to the industry for a while, it was also concluded that products sold between January 1, 1997 and December 31, 1998 should be fixed at no cost to the consumer.

It was also resolved that attempts should be made to establish a database retailers could access showing the status of all currently available products. Lonie said there was a degree of cooperation amongst major manufacturers, suppliers and retailers and that "they were pleased someone like the ARA had endeavoured to put down a set of guidelines".

"Those suppliers present at the meeting claimed they were now only selling Y2K ready products and they all had policies in place on how they were going to handle old non-compliant product," Lonie said.

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