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Optus outage: Is outage ‘final straw’ for frustrated Aussies considering ‘mass exodus’

“Fuming” Aussies considering walking away from Optus after today’s outage and the cyber attack should know their rights for compensation or breaking contract.

Australians unable to contact family, businesses can’t make payments, public transport coming to a standstill, hospitals left in the lurch and terrifying Triple-O ordeals.

Today’s Optus outage has had widespread ramifications and, after millions of Australians had their personal and extremely sensitive data stolen in last year’s cyber breach, the question on many customers’ lips is: “Is this the straw that breaks the camel’s back?”

CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin has said compensation claims will be "considered" but what are your rights as an Optus customer? We've broken down whether you can get compensation or leave a locked in contract.

“This is awful timing for Optus, which has spent the last year trying to rebuild trust after the data of around one in two Australians was stolen on their watch,” consumer expert Joel Gibson told Yahoo Finance.

Optus outage illustrated with a sign outside a store and the SOS sign seen on mobile phones with an inset of a phone showing 'we are deeply sorry' message from Optus.
Optus customers are fuming after a major outage and last year's hack. But are you going to see any compensation?

Have you been stung twice and considering leaving Optus? Contact belinda.grantgeary@yahooinc.com

“Optus customers will be fuming, and fair enough. Although they could swap notes with Telstra customers who suffer regular outages.” (Interestingly, it appears Telstra and Vodafone are reaping the rewards with lines outside the door in some stores.)

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Just over a quarter of Australians use Optus for their mobile network, and about 19 per cent for broadband, according to data from Finder.

And there’s a warning out there for Australia’s second-biggest telco.

“This could be a case of ‘two strikes and you’re out’ for Optus – customer loyalty is already on shaky ground following the data breach in 2022,” Finder tech expert Angus Kidman said.

“Optus could be facing a customer exodus as the outage may be the final straw for some who have only just finished dealing with the leak. The fear of being stuck without mobile phone connectivity is very real, especially for those who rely on their phone for directions and work.”

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Kidman said this was a “hidden cost” of our reliance on technology, particularly those linked to the internet.

“A network outage literally stops people in their tracks,” he said.

So, what do you need to do if you want to leave Optus?

Gibson said most modern NBN and mobile plans were not locked into contracts and you’d be able to switch telcos pretty easily.

“But if you are on a contract and you believe Optus is in breach of that contract, call them or write to them and outline why you should be allowed to leave without penalty and see what they say,” he said.

“They might not stand in your way.”

Australians’ rights as consumers are protected under consumer law and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) told Yahoo Finance that, if a business does not meet a consumer guarantee, it must offer a remedy.

“In the case of a service, customers are entitled to some type of remedy, which could be a refund,” a spokesperson said.

In general, a solution could be a repair, replacement or refund, depending on the circumstances, and sometimes compensation for damages or loss.

But, Optus is yet to determine and explain the cause of the outage, which could have an impact on what "remedy" a customer is entitled to.

Optus needs to be given the chance to explain whether there was “reasonable grounds” for the outage and offer fair reparations.

If the cause is due to something beyond the business' control, consumer guarantee may not apply.

The ACCC told Yahoo Finance it was continuing to monitor the situation.

Whether there's grounds for Aussies to “rip up their contracts” is yet to be seen - and will likely be impacted by the terms and conditions of a contract - but customers are turning on the embattled telco.

Can I get compensation from Optus for the outage?

While the CEO said compensation would be considered, and Communications Minister Michelle Rowland claimed it's "too early to to be discussing or giving definitive views about compensation", Gibson said Optus customers should be entitled.

“How big that compensation is will depend on how long this continues and how it impacts each individual and business but they should keep a diary to outline their claim when the time comes,” he told Yahoo Finance.

“If Optus refuses to compensate you for the loss and inconvenience, I'd suggest making a complaint to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) as that often forces them to take your complaint seriously.”

Rowland also recommended keeping evidence.

“(But) it is important, especially for small businesses, to keep receipts so that any recourse and any redress that may be available to them has that evidentiary base.”

TIO said it would assist impacted customers who made a complaint with them.

“We can help you with refunds for the time you have been unable to use your service, compensation claims and disputes about your contract," the ombudsman said.

Australian Media and Communications Authority (AMCA) has also told customers impacted to file a formal complaint, according to rights guaranteed under Australian consumer law.

“If the service outages are frequent and/or major, you may be able to: ask for a refund or rebate for the period you were without service, cancel your contract without a penalty, (and/or) ask for compensation for any loss that happened as a result," AMCA said.

“Some contracts allow you to apply for a refund or rebate when you can’t use a service because of an outage. This is usually only for major outages that you did not cause.”

Optus outage: What you need to know

  • Who is impacted? Up to 10 million mobile, landline and broadband customers have been without service since early Wednesday morning

  • What caused the outage: Optus hasn't said but the government revealed a core network fault

  • Is it a cyber attack? All signs point to no

  • How long will it last? Some services have come back but it could "take hours" before everyone has service again

  • Could I call triple-0? On mobiles, yes because you will be transferred to an alternate network but, on landlines, no

  • Does it matter if I am not with Optus? You could argue the vast majority of Australia has been impacted in one way or another. There’s been a trickle-down from direct customers to bigger businesses or services that use Optus, from hospitals and public transport to Uber drivers or the local cafe

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