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Optus forced to pay $1.5 million fine: 'Serious consequences'

The telco has apologised and admitted its practices did not meet 'community expectations'.

Optus has been ordered to pay a whopping $1.5 million fine after Australia’s media watchdog said the telco committed a “large-scale public safety breach”.

The company didn’t upload the data of close to 200,000 customers to a critical database used by police, fire and ambulance services to find people during an emergency such as a bushfire or flood. Optus was found to have failed to add in the details of customers between January 2021 and September 2023.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Samantha Yorke said it was vitally important people were added to this list.

Optus store
Optus has been fined $1.5 million for a serious public safety breach. (Source: Getty)

Do you have a story to tell? Email me at stew.perrie@yahooinc.com

“When emergency services are hindered, there can be very serious consequences for the safety of Australians,” she said.

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“While we are not aware of anyone being directly harmed due to the non-compliance in this case, it’s alarming that Optus placed so many customers in this position for so long.”

In addition to the $1.5 million fine, Optus will undergo an independent review of its Public Number Database (IPND) where it uses a third-party data provider. If it fails again to comply with the industry code, it could face federal court proceedings and fines of up to $10 million.

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The company said in a statement: “Optus accepts that proper audits and checks were not in place to ensure IPND obligations were being met for services we supply through our partner brands. We apologise for this and accept that we have not met community expectations.”

This is off the back of Optus admitting in January that almost 2,700 calls to Triple-0 did not go through during last year's 14-hour outage, which was far more than the 228 first estimated. The company suffered a brutal breakdown on November 8 and thousands of customers were unable to contact emergency services.

An estimated 10 million Australians, 400,000 businesses - including Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and ANZ - and much of the wider population felt the impact of mobile and broadband services going down.

Then-CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin blamed it on a “technical fault” but said “our teams have worked very, very hard to get services restored as quickly as they possibly could”.

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