On Wednesday 8 November 2023, Optus customers (and customers of Optus network resellers) were impacted by a national whole-of-network outage.
This outage started around 4am, with connectivity restored to the majority of the network by around 6pm.
I have been impacted by the outage, where do I go for assistance?
Consumers who are interested in seeking compensation due to the network outage are encouraged to raise the matter with their service provider in the first instance.
This may be Optus or an Optus network reseller.
What if I am not happy with my provider’s response?
If you have raised your matter with your service provider but are dissatisfied with its response, you can then contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) for assistance.
The TIO is a free and independent dispute resolution service for customers who have a complaint about their telco.
The TIO aims to settle disputes in a fair, objective and non-bureaucratic way, having regard not only to the law and to good industry practice, but also to what it considers is fair and reasonable.
The TIO can be contacted via its website at www.tio.com.au/about-us/contact-us or by telephone on 1800 062 058.
What are my rights?
Depending on the type of service you have, different consumer protections may apply.
Information about your rights as a consumer can be found on the following websites:
- the ACCC at www.accc.gov.au/consumers
- the ACMA at www.acma.gov.au/how-law-protects-you-telco-customer.
Can I get compensation?
The TIO can assist consumers to obtain compensation from their provider in certain circumstances, for both financial and non-financial loss. Further information is available on the TIO’s website at www.tio.com.au/news/support-consumers-and-small-businesses-impacted-optus-network-outage.
Types of customers the TIO can assist
The TIO can assist individual customers, small business and not-for-profit customers. The TIO is not available to handle complaints from larger business customers. The TIO generally considers a small business or not-for-profit consumer as one with up to $3,000,000 annual turnover and no more than 20 full-time employees. The TIO will take into account if employees are permanent, casual, and if employment is seasonal or voluntary.
The TIO’s approach and compensation limits
The TIO will assess each compensation claim carefully before making a decision. Any amount of compensation awarded will be proportionate to the extent of the harm suffered.
When assessing your compensation claim, the TIO will consider what steps you took to protect your interests and minimise any losses.
For financial loss, the TIO can direct a provider to pay up to $100,000 in compensation. A consumer will need to provide the TIO with supporting evidence for a financial loss claim.
For non-financial loss, the TIO can award compensation for a maximum of $100,000 for complaints in relation to privacy rights, or a maximum of $1,500 for any other complaint. It is likely most awards of compensation for non-financial loss will be modest.
Types of claims for losses
The TIO deals with claims for compensation such as:
- lost business profit due to connection delays or network faults
- costs of having to pay for alternative services when a telco does not supply agreed services
- where an unusual amount of physical inconvenience, time taken to resolve a situation, or interference with an individual’s peace of mind has occurred because of a telco’s action or inaction.
The TIO does not deal with claims for compensation:
- for the costs of making a complaint to the TIO
- for loss of business reputation
- made to penalise a telco
What is the Government doing?
On 9 November 2023, the Australian Government announced that it will undertake a post-incident review into the Optus outage.
Separately, the telecommunications industry regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), has commenced an initial assessment to investigate Optus’ compliance with the rules regarding Triple Zero emergency calls.
Optus has indicated it will cooperate with the Review as well as with the ACMA’s assessment. Further announcements on the Review and assessment will be made in due course.
The Senate Environment and Communications References Committee is also undertaking an inquiry into the matter
Read the Minister’s media release