Optus has ruled out compensation after a 14-hour outage brought its services and much of Australia to a grinding halt yesterday, as two inquiries are launched and mystery surrounding the "root cause" remains.
Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin spent much of yesterday apologising for the chaos a “technical fault” caused when 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.
But she said there won't be payouts because most customers would get "less than $2" for their troubles.
There have been financial hits for Aussies who lost a day’s work, for business owners who couldn’t take payments, and general inconvenience as people couldn’t make calls, use public transport, or access key call centres.
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But far more concerning impacts, like people in life-or-death situations not being able to contact triple-0 and hospitals being cut off from communication, are more likely to be the subject of a federal government review into the blackout.
Mobile phone customers with "SOS" showing on their devices could get on to another network in the case of an emergency, but landlines could not.
Optus outage: What you need to know
Who was impacted? Up to 10 million mobile, landline and broadband customers and 400,000 businesses were without service from early Wednesday morning, with Optus stating services resumed about 6pm AEDT.
What caused the outage: A ‘technical error’ has been blamed but Optus won’t go into more detail because they say they don’t have it.
Is it a cyber attack? Fair question given 1 in 2 Aussies had their data compromised last year, but no.
Why does it matter if I am not with Optus? You could argue the vast majority of Australia was impacted in one way or another. People couldn’t communicate. There’s a story of a Sydney woman missing her mum’s final moments. Triple-0 calls and hospitals were caught up. The trickle-down to non-Optus customers was evident when public transport couldn’t be used, Uber was down, and major banks’ call centres were out. The local cafe couldn’t take payments - bad for you not getting caffeine but worse for them missing out on revenue.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said her department would undertake one review, while the Australian Communications and Media Authority had already launched an investigation into emergency calls.
The minister said it was fair for customers to expect compensation for the damage done on Wednesday and urged people, particularly small businesses, to keep receipts for their losses "so that any recourse and any redress that may be available to them has that evidentiary base".
"I think Australians are reasonable people. They expect when wrong has been done ... by a corporation, that that company will do the right thing," Rowland told Nine today.
She was the first to speak about the cause of the outage - stating it was "quite fundamental to the network" - and called on Optus to improve their communications as many felt left in the dark about what was going on.
"My understanding is that this is a fault deep in the core. The core network basically encompasses everything from routing to electronics," Rowland said, noting a "number of problems" were identified.
Bayer Rosmarin blamed a "technical network fault" for the outage, but the details of the cause still remain a mystery.
Optus reputation in tatters amid demands for compensation
Optus suffered a share price loss of about 4.5 per cent - close to $2 billion - during the outage, and the hits could keep on coming as disgruntled customers walk.
Optus users were seen lining up outside competitors' doors, and one woman was offering $150 for a $2 non-Optus SIM card.
Damage control appears to be a priority in the face of a mass exodus from the embattled telco, which is still repairing its reputation from one of Australia’s biggest cyber breaches.
" Now that the network is restored, we will have a look at ways we can thank our customers for their patience and reward them for their loyalty," Bayer Rosmarin told 9News, stopping short of promising compensation.
Consumer expert Joel Gibson told Yahoo Finance those impacted should be entitled to compensation, and that those in a locked-in contract who are completely fed up with Optus could go to them and ask to cancel because "they might not stand in your way".
“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," he said.
But those who suffered significant losses may take the legal fight to Optus before a compensation plan is worked out.
“There should be some compensation and I think that ... we‘re going to have a meeting and some of the guys are going to be putting their hand up and saying, 'Let’s go to Shine Lawyers and look at a class action against this' because this is not the first time," taxi driver Ian Martin-Brown told A Current Affair.
He lost a day's work and described how significantly that impacted him in the cost-of-living crisis, calling for national accountability.
“We‘re going through the worst time we’ve ever had and things aren’t cheap, things are dear, the inflation is through the roof, the increase in mortgages and it’s just ridiculous, it really is,” Martin-Brown said.
Sydney cafe owner Anthony said the outage cost him 30 per cent of his day's takings and he fumed over the lack of communication with small business owners like himself.