The news follows research from the Consumers' Association into companies contingency planning for the Year 2000. 74 companies were contacted anonymously about millennium bug contingency plans and customers' legal rights in the event of things going wrong. None of the companies contacted offered any advice or information on consumer's legal rights. A third of firms contacted did not respond at all. Of the remainder, most provided only "bland assurances" to customers, according to Middleton.
The report, entitled 'Fact or Flannel', concluded the information given was 'so vague as to be unusable' and couched in language incomprehensible to the average consumer. Commenting on the report, Middleton called for companies to guarantee customers are protected. "Companies need to take measures to ensure they are prepared for the bug and they need to give customers realistic information about what is likely to happen over the millennium period," he said.
At the moment there is a lack of clear assurances from firms which has led to inevitable scare stories in the press, according to Middleton. "It is not surprising that people start to panic. Consumers are concerned for good reason about interruptions in vital services as a result of the millennium bug," he said. He is concerned consumers will be forced to sue companies after the millennium period and advised people to keep hold of records and receipts and check insurance policies.