After an outage that affected over 10 million people and about 400,000 businesses, Optus is facing a Government investigation that can potentially lead to another class action, the third the company is facing since 2019.
One week after the service outage that affected about 10 million customers country-wide, including businesses, Optus apologised for the disruption it caused.
Optus said the 14-hour-long disruption was caused by “changes to routing information from an international peering network following a software upgrade”. In a statement on its website, the company gave a step-by-step detailed account of the events and why it took so long to restore service. “The restoration required a large-scale team effort and in some cases required Optus to reconnect or reboot routers physically, requiring the dispatch of people across several sites in Australia.”
Optus customers could not access network services or phone signals during the network outage period. Hundreds of thousands of businesses that rely on the telco company to function their EFTPOS system claim to have been financially hit, with some hospitality businesses claiming to have lost over 80 per cent of their customers. Customers could also not dial 000 or any other emergency services for a while.
In a form to compensate its customers for the significant inconvenience, Optus is offering, to those eligible, extra data that can be used during the summer months if activated by the end of the year, as well as improved and uncapped speeds to some home internet customers. As pointed out in the company’s terms and conditions, some plans are not eligible and won’t be entitled to any benefit, including some NBN plans.
For businesses, Optus recommends contacting each Business Account Manager or local Optus Business Centre to discuss how they were impacted by the blackout and what can be done to support them.
Still, for many affected, the offered compensation isn’t satisfactory. In the wake of a substantial class action against the company over the 2022 data breach, there remains the potential that Optus could be facing a second.
The Federal Government promptly announced an investigation into the impact of the outage on Australians, including whether the communication from the company to its customers was satisfactory, if compensation was acceptable, and more. This will be followed by a public hearing in the Senate on Friday 17 November, with a full report expected by 9 December.
A conclusion from the government can open the door to a new class action against Optus. Talking to ABC News, Joel Phibbs, partner at Melbourne-based law firm Phi Finney McDonald, reiterates that no action should be taken while regulators investigate the issue. “And then if there’s a gap on how the company has addressed or resolved the issue, you might consider private litigation”.
The next steps are conditional on Friday’s Senate hearing and the subsequent report. According to the federal government, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts are preparing terms of reference. Separately, the telecommunications industry regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), is investigating Optus’telecom’s compliance with the rules regarding the Triple Zero emergency calls.