Australia blocks Year 2000 litigation

AUSTRALIA has legislated to protect businesses from year 2000 compliance litigation.

It is following the lead set by the US and increases the pressure on the UK government to follow suit.

The Australian Bill offers limited protection against civil liability through the use of a specified Year 2000 disclosure statement.

UK lawyers specialising in information technology and Year 2000 work are accusing the Government of neglecting this area of law.

John Mawhood, partner at London firm Tarlo Lyons and panelist for Action 2000 – which was set up to address problems associated with the millennium bug – says there is serious industry concern about the imbalance created by the US and Australian moves.

He warns the Government is rapidly running out of time to limit Year 2000 litigation.

“We need to reconsider our position,” says Mawhood.

“The European Commission could encourage member states to introduce measures. It should take it up from the point of view of harmonisation. I think it is time for us to move on from the policy the Government has been pursuing up until now.”

Fellow Year 2000 adviser Andrew Rigby, a barrister at Tarlo Lyons, warns: “UK businesses could find themselves the victims of Year 2000 litigation instigated in the UK by US companies, yet UK businesses are being denied a similar remedy against US companies.

“We need reciprocal legislation… which should include a provision for limited retrospective immunity.”

Unlike US Good Samaritan legislation, the Australian Bill does not offer protection for previously-made Year 2000 statements.

There is, however, some provision for republishing previous Year 2000 disclosure statements.