Companies using US 'Good Samaritan' legislation to claim legal privilege for Year 2000 statements will leave themselves open to legal action in the UK.
The US government's Year 2000 Information & Readiness Act, signed last month, offers limited immunity to companies that want to come clean about their readiness for the millennium.
Under the act, some forms of Year 2000 statements cannot be used as evidence in Y2K litigation cases.
Provided companies take action before the 3 December deadline, they can benefit retrospectively by nominating Year 2000 statements going back as far as January 1996.
Gwynneth Flower, managing director of UK government body Action 2000, said: "It is important that British businesses that trade with the US recognise the implications of this legislation and take the necessary action before the deadline."
Although the act should provide some immunity for companies doing business in the US, it could expose companies making compliance statements to litigation because there is no similar act in the UK or Europe.
Robin Guenier, director of independent pressure group Taskforce 2000, said: "Any company making a Year 2000 statement that is potentially damaging, won't be covered over here. Companies that trade with the US could still be sued by the US company over here, where their statements will be admissible in court."
Andrew Rigby, Year 2000 legal expert at law firm Tarlo Lyons, said this shows that Europe needs its own Good Samaritan legislation.
The idea behind the US act was to encourage companies to make disclosures and share information on Year 2000.
Flower said Action 2000 would welcome such legislation in the UK.
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