‘Particularly concerning’: Minister announces review of nationwide Optus outage

Optus says it will “fully co-operate” with both reviews.

“As a critical infrastructure provider, we understand how important it is to ensure continuity of service and any lessons learnt are likely to be helpful for both Optus and others in our industry,” the telco’s vice president of regulatory and public affairs Andrew Sheridan said.

Lines outside an Optus store in Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall on Wednesday.Credit: Chris Hopkins

“We value our customers’ loyalty, and are looking at ways to say ‘thank you’.

“Optus once again apologises to our customers and others that were impacted by the outage.”

Speaking on Nine’s Today program, Rowland said the government would aim to complete the review into Optus’ outage as soon as possible.


“We’ll be aiming to [complete the review] most expeditiously because we understand that consumers and businesses are exactly as you say, are very frustrated and will want some answers,” Rowland said.

“I think the terms of reference here also need to apply across the industry because we need to take those lessons for the other carriers and service providers as well.”

Meanwhile, Assistant Minister for Competition and Treasury Andrew Leigh said there are “deep problems” with Optus and it is vital Australia learns the lessons from the outage.

“This is the largest mobile communications network failure in Australia’s history,” he said.

“I urge Optus customers to keep receipts, it will be a matter for Optus to make clear how it’s going to respond to those compensation claims

“This may not be the last outage of this kind, it’s vital that Australia learns the lessons from it and that we’re able to put those in place to reduce the impact of future outages.”

Chief executive of the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre Rachael Falk said major corporations and government services such as train networks and hospitals could have clauses in their contracts with Optus that force the telco to pay for damages.

“In many of the big contracts with government clients or big corporations, there are what is called surface level agreements around time the network is up and time networks are down and that can result in damages being paid depending on the nature of those contracts to the customers who are impacted,” she said.

“That is certainly a way that the big government customers or the big enterprise customers would be looking at their Optus contracts and considering whether they are entitled to any damages as a result of yesterday.

The shutdown of Metro trains in Melbourne, hospitals unable to take calls, and triple zero services being unavailable is a “big consequence” for Optus, Falk said, and it was important for the company to not hide behind legal professional privilege when the government review takes place.

“It’s really important Optus are transparent and thorough and open with government in the upcoming review,” Falk said.

It comes as Optus’ parent company Singtel delivered its financial results for the first half of 2024 on Thursday.

Singtel’s executive board has been visiting Australia this week, and the company’s shares fell by nearly 5 per cent on the Singapore Exchange on Wednesday.

“Obviously I’ve kept them fully updated and they’ve been extremely supportive,” Bayer Rosmarin told this masthead on Wednesday of the Singtel board. “They’re experienced in running telcos all around the world. They understand the realities of dealing with critical infrastructure, and we’ve had nothing but support.”

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert said affected Optus customers have already contacted the watchdog.

“I think there’s just an erosion of trust that’s been going on [with Optus],” she said on ABC radio on Thursday.

“But we are anticipating that people will initially contact Optus to try and get it resolved and then keep coming to us over the coming days and weeks if they haven’t been able to get it resolved directly with Optus,” she said.

The ombudsman said updates to customers would have been helpful, and pointed to how electricity companies managed outages.

“They give you an update and a sense of how long you need to be able to manage without access to an essential service. Ideally, we’d like to see things like that being brought into the telco industry so that you [get updates] either through media or through web apps,” Gebert said.

She said many complaints went to the ombudsman because people didn’t have access to information.

“If you can give them information, you actually prevent complaints, and you build that trust and confidence that you care enough to resolve their issues,” she said.

In terms of compensation to customers, Gerbert said there were a variety of outcomes that Optus could think about.

“I do think for some people – particularly small businesses with loss of trade – compensation is something that would be the fair and reasonable outcome.”

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