An offer of bonus data from Optus as compensation following Wednesday’s nationwide outage has been widely met with derision as the under-siege telco continues to cop criticism.
Millions of Australians were left without phone and internet connectivity for upwards of 12 hours earlier in the week. Businesses and critical infrastructure, including hospitals and public transport, suffered significant disruptions as a result.
With services now back online, Optus has offered extra data to customers as part of its response headlined “We’re very sorry for the outage”. It includes at least an extra 200GB of data for eligible mobile and tablet customers, and unlimited data on weekends for the rest of the year on eligible prepaid plans.
This overwhelmingly exceeds Australia’s average monthly mobile data usage of 10.2GB, a figure reported by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) last year. Most Optus customers won’t benefit from the compensation offer, as pointed out by many people on social media.
In an update for consumers and small businesses affected by the outage, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) outlined how it can help if you’re not satisfied with Optus’ response. Its support for compensation claims includes being able to direct a telco to pay up to $100,000 in compensation as a result of financial loss.
Claims the TIO can help with include those resulting from “lost business profit due to connection delays or network faults” and the “costs of having to pay for alternative services when a telco does not supply agreed services”.
Optus outage and compensation fallout
A senate inquiry will take place to examine the outage explained by Optus as a “network event yesterday triggered a cascading failure”. Chaired by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the inquiry will cross-examine how Optus communicated with customers, compensation, and what the government can do to keep Australians connected.
“We want those affected to be fairly compensated and to work so this doesn’t happen again,” Senator Hanson-Young said. “The inquiry will look at what responsibility Optus has to protect the public, not just their profits.”
“The question of compensation will be asked and it’s our hope that the CEO will have the answers that Australians and 10 million Optus customers expect and deserve.”
Emergency roaming between networks has been floated as a potential solution in the event of future outages. If pursued, it would mirror Canada’s response to a substantial outage in 2022. Afterwards, the country’s telcos agreed to enable emergency roaming, so that if one network went down, users could remain connected.
“We know that there is nothing we can do to make up for yesterday and what customers want most is for our network to work all the time — which is our number one priority — but we also want to acknowledge their patience and loyalty by giving them additional data to help during the holidays, when so many people consume more data with friends and family,” Bayer Rosmarin said.
Optus customers are already leaving in droves, with telcos like Telstra and Vodafone – including brands using their networks – reporting high volumes of sign-ups.