Optus dials up PR amid fury, compensation calls

Optus is picking up the shattered remains of customers’ confidence as a storm of criticism is unleashed on the telecommunications giant following its second major crisis in 18 months.

The telco suffered a 12-hour outage on Wednesday that prevented 10 million customers and businesses making and receiving calls, or connecting to the internet.

Customers, politicians and business figures have let fly, with the Greens securing a senate inquiry into the disaster and the federal government launching a review.

The outage occurred as the company was starting to recover from a data breach in September 2022 that affected millions of customers and led to the theft of 10,000 passports, driver licences and Medicare numbers, which were leaked online.

Optus director Matt Williams says the company knows its customers could turn to other phone service providers.

“We really value, very highly, the relationships we have with our customers, the loyalty they have to us, their ongoing choice of us,” he told AAP.

“We provide unique and amazing value, as well as features and experiences that our customers can’t get anywhere else.

“So we’ll continue to provide all those things (and) work very hard to make sure that we rebuild those experiences with our customers and that relationship.”

Optus has offered extra data packages for its customers, with postpaid users eligible for 200GB of extra data and prepaid users able to access free unlimited data on weekends until the end of the year.

Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin says the offer was a way to thank customers for their patience and loyalty.

“We know that there’s nothing we can do to change what happened,” she said.

“We really appreciate the patience and understanding that our customers have shown.”

But with businesses losing thousands of dollars in sales during the outage, it remains to be seen whether extra data for “streaming, surfing (the web) and other services” will be enough to satisfy them.

After the 2022 data breach, Optus funded a credit monitoring service for impacted customers and covered the costs of licence number changes.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has independently started to investigate Optus’ compliance with rules on emergency calls.

The telecommunications watchdog is urging small businesses that were impacted to raise compensation with the provider.

“What we would encourage you to do is contact Optus and … help them understand what the impact was on them and their earnings,” Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert said.

Ms Gebert said the scale of the outage was unacceptable as it impacted emergency services and hospitals in addition to small businesses and transport services.

Kelly Bayer Rosmarin has faced increased scrutiny over her choices as CEO, but Matt Williams says critics should focus on Optus as a whole.

“We’re a team at Optus,” he said.

“We’ve got lots of different people doing lots of different things from the people that you talk to in our shops – who we’re incredibly proud of and thankful for because they had a tough day yesterday – through to our network engineers who worked tirelessly to get the network back up, it’s the whole office team who are here working on this together.”

Optus says the outage was caused by a “network event” that triggered a cascading failure. Its engineers are investigating the issue.

The company says it will welcome and cooperate with government investigations.


Topics: Optus
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