J Baker, a large US clothes retailer, is demanding that Andersen Consulting reimburse it for the cost of installing and running a mainframe package that was introduced nearly 10 years ago because it is not millennium compliant.
But, to try to ward off a lawsuit from its customer, Andersen has filed one of its own in a Massachussetts court, asking for a declaratory judgement that it has fulfilled its contractual obligations.
The move is an important test case to establish whether consultants, IT vendors or customers will be held liable for the installation of non Year 2000 compliant systems.
A spokesman at Andersen said: "We?ve been forced into this situation by J Baker by its ongoing and recent actions, the latest of which was hiring a contingency law firm, which went too far. We felt we had no other course of action. To continue talking was fruitless, so we?ve asked the court for a definitive ruling. If the court says yes, then the issue is moot, which we strongly believe it to be. We don?t want to be dealing with issues from 10 years ago."
He added that Andersen had worked hand in hand with J Baker?s senior management for two years on the CBA Genesis system, the installation of which was completed in 1991. They had made the final decisions on it, produced the final payment, and had even spent the past decade acting as a public reference site for the company.
According to the consulting firm, however, J Baker is now arguing that it would have insisted in 1989 that the application be millennium compliant if the consultants had brought up the issue. Andersen say the claims are groundless.
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