Optus Outage: Telco Faces Backlash After Offering Free Data to Customers as Consumer Advocates Deem It Inadequate

By Jessel Renolayan

Nov 10, 2023 10:13 PM EST

In the aftermath of Wednesday's 14-hour outage that disrupted internet and phone services, Optus is under fire for its perceived inadequate compensation offer. 

The telecommunications giant's attempt to mollify affected customers and small businesses with 200GB of data has been labeled a "hollow gesture" by critics, which led to increasing calls for more substantial reparations.

(Photo : Optus Facebook Page

Optus Outage Affects Over 10 Million

According to Reuters, over 10 million Australians were affected by the network blackout, triggering anger and frustration among customers of the nation's second-largest telco after they were cut off from internet and phone services. The unexplained outages also raised broader concerns about the telecommunications infrastructure.

Optus chief executive Kelly Bayer Rosmarin said the company sincerely apologized for the widespread outage that impacted not only individual consumers but also critical services like trains and hospital communications. However, she did not provide any details on the cause.

The company's offer of 200GB of data for small businesses and consumers and unlimited data on weekends for eligible prepaid customers until the end of the year has faced swift criticism, according to 

 The Guardian reported that Andrew Williams, the chief executive of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, labeled the offer as "token," and emphasized that it does not adequately address the inconvenience suffered by consumers.

"The consensus we're hearing from consumers is that, frankly, it doesn't nearly make up for the inconvenience caused by the outage," Williams noted.

Bruce Billson, the small business ombudsman, echoed the same sentiments, asserting that the offer falls short of recognizing the economic impact on businesses that rely on telecommunications as an essential service. He called for a more tailored response to address the specific challenges faced by small and family businesses.

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TIO on Optus Outage

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), Cynthia Gebert, also seemed to agree with Williams and Billson, saying that the offer wouldn't meet the expectations of customers who experienced significant losses. 

She encouraged Optus to engage with affected consumers and consider fair and reasonable compensation, noting that dissatisfied customers could file complaints with the TIO.

The TIO's page for customers affected by the outage said, "We will take a careful approach to considering whether compensation is appropriate." The page also outlined potential remedies for affected customers, including refunds, compensation, or release from contracts. 

The TIO emphasized that compensation awards for financial loss would be proportionate to the extent of harm suffered, while most compensation awards for non-financial loss will likely be "modest."

According to The Guardian, the TIO can order a telco firm to pay up to $100,000 compensation for financial loss, but if it is more than that, the claim could be directed to a court or tribunal to decide. The maximum amount for non-financial loss that can be compensated for non-privacy related claims is reportedly $1,500.

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