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Govt announces outage ‘review’, as Optus promises to ‘reward’ loyal customers

Optus blackout hits millions of Australians

Under-fire Optus chief executive Kelly Bayer Rosmarin says the telco will consider how to “thank” and “reward” loyal customers hit by Australia’s worst telco outage.

It comes as the Albanese government on Thursday morning (AEDT) said it would start a review into the national network meltdown that affected 10 million customers on Wednesday.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said connectivity was “absolutely essential” for consumers and businesses, and the effects of Wednesday’s outage were particularly concerning.

“While we welcome that Optus services were restored over the course of the day, it is critical the government conducts a process to identify lessons to be learned from yesterday’s outage,” she said.

Rowland said her department would develop the terms of reference for a post-incident review. Further announcements regarding the terms and the next steps will be made in due course.

“It is critical that industry and governments take stock following large-scale outages, given no network is immune,” Rowland said.

‘Rewards’ for loyal customers

Bayer Rosmarin said Optus strived for “fantastic” and “reliable” service and that the company would consider ways to compensate customers for the trouble caused.

“We’re now starting to think about ways in which we can thank our customers for their patience as we work through the outage today and reward them for their loyalty to Optus,” she told ABC News.

“We will definitely consider every avenue as we turn our attention, now that services are restored, to how we work with our customers.

“We understand how much people rely on our connectivity, and that’s why we strive to give our customers a fantastic service that’s extremely reliable, great value for money, and includes unique features they can’t get anywhere else.

“We’re very dedicated to giving our customers a great experience, and we hate that today we let them down.”

However, pressed in an interview with The Daily Telegraph about direct refunds for Wednesday’s chaos, Bayer Rosmarin reportedly said “refunding people for one day is probably less than $2”.

She said Optus would instead look at other ways to reward people.

“We are going to look at how we reward our customers for their loyalty and patience,” she said, adding “we might choose to do something that is more valuable” than direct compensation.

Rowland said on Thursday customers had a reasonable expectation that corporations would “do the right thing”.

Businesses are counting the costs after the nationwide Optus network outage ground trading to a halt for many.

More than 10 million Optus customers and businesses were thrown into disarray when the telco’s network dropped out about 4am, preventing people from connecting to the internet or making or receiving calls.

It took more than 12 hours before services were eventually restored.

There are calls for Optus to explain why the nation’s second-most popular telecommunications network went down.

Rosmarin defended the company’s communication amid criticism that customers were left in the dark and Optus was slow to react.

“We were very front-footed with our communication,” she told the ABC.

“We had messages out early, letting our customers know of the outage. We gave more than seven media updates during the day, I went on a number of radio stations.

“Unfortunately, when you have an outage like this, the only message customers want to hear is that we’ve restored the network, and so we gave information and updates as soon as they were available.

“But it’s only in the afternoon that we were able to let customers know that the service was fully restored.”

Calls for inquiry

The Greens are pushing for a federal parliamentary inquiry in the Senate to examine what led to the nationwide outage.

“We need to make sure that all Australians have access to affordable and reliable internet and telecommunication, because otherwise, life as we know it stops, and that’s what Australians right around the country experienced [yesterday] morning,” Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

Businesses had been dealt multiple blows, a day after the Reserve Bank increased interest rates, National Retail Association director Rob Godwin said.

“This is costing businesses thousands of dollars in sales that they are now in dire need of given yesterday’s rate hike,” he said.

Close to 10 million Optus customers had their personal information stolen when the company’s data system was breached last year.

The telco believes a network fault was behind Wednesday’s outage, as investigations continue into the root cause.

People could not make calls to triple zero on Optus landline devices during the outage. It was still possible to do so on a mobile phone.

Public infrastructure, including Melbourne’s metropolitan train network, ground to a halt early on Wednesday before slowly resuming.

Service NSW call centres, Victoria’s virtual emergency department and Northern Health hospital phone lines were also down.

-with AAP

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