The last few years have been difficult for Optus.
Last year the telecommunications company experienced a major data breach, an October report found complaints against the company increased by 30 percent and this week it faced a data outage. unprecedented telephone and Internet access which reached more than 10 million customers.
Many of these customers say they want to leave. Others are demanding compensation. Some may want to file a complaint.
Optus has offered its customers free data to use over the holidays, to thank them for their patience during Wednesday’s outage.
Many consumers would say their losses are worth much more. However, legally speaking, Optus might not owe you anything.
So, what are your rights? And what are Optus’ obligations?
What are my rights ?
Under the Australian Consumer Law, businesses must pay for “loss or damage caused by the failure to comply with a consumer warranty”.
However, as law professor Jeannie Paterson explains, there are some caveats.
The first is that many telecommunications contracts may promise to provide service, but do not promise that the service will be uninterrupted. So, a temporary outage cannot technically constitute a violation of your contract.
The other issue is that in order to pursue legal action, a customer would need to establish that Optus failed to provide its service with “reasonable care”.
And until we know what caused the outage, Professor Paterson says, it could be difficult to prove.
“The provider of a service is not actually responsible for a freak accident – a service provider is responsible if it fails to provide the service properly and efficiently,” said Professor Paterson, co-director of the Center for AI and Digital Ethics from the University of Washington. the University of Melbourne, said.
“Until we know how and why the violation occurred, it is unclear whether this duty to provide the service with reasonable care was in fact violated.”
Optus claims that “a network event” was responsible for triggering the “cascading outage” which led to the shutdown of its services across the country, but gave little more detail.
Can I still claim compensation?
Yes you can.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Keep any receipts, invoices or bank statements proving what you spent
- Determine the amount of compensation needed based on the money you lost during the outage. This may include missed work, lost business, or other expenses you incurred.
- So contact Optus directly and make a complaint
If you are not satisfied with Optus’ response, telecommunications sector mediator Cynthia Gebert recommends that you contact her team.
Some small businesses may have insurance to cover interruptions, so it’s worth checking your policy just in case.
How do I cancel my Optus contract?
And for those who want to get out? This will depend on your plan and device.
If you’re a prepaid or monthly mobile customer, it’s pretty simple: you can request to transfer your number to another provider, or start from scratch with a new SIM card and number.
But if you have a long-term internet plan or are paying for a phone, it can be a little more complicated.
Even in the best of times, ending a plan with Optus can be laborious, as Australian Reddit user documented last month.
As mentioned above, advocates advised customers to estimate the cost of the outage when complaining to Optus. Part of your claim could be to request early termination of your contract.
However, generally speaking, most contracts have a clause stating that you must pay the remainder of your contract term if you wish to end it early.
Can I sue Optus?
For the reasons mentioned above, it may be difficult to prove your case in court.
The Ombudsman recommends contacting Optus directly regarding compensation.
“Obviously, everyone always has the right to pursue their legal options. It would be difficult to be able to establish that you might not come out of this,” Ms Gebert said.
“We are really asking Optus to look beyond what the law requires.
“What is the right thing to do in the circumstances should be a guiding activity for them.”
Will Optus offer anything to customers?
Under pressure from politicians, consumers and advocates, Optus yesterday made an offer to affected customers.
Eligible customers will have access to 200GB of bonus data to activate before the end of the year.
“We know there is nothing we can do to make up for (Wednesday) and what customers want most is for our network to be running all the time – which is our number one priority,” he said. CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin said in a statement.
“But we also want to recognize their patience and loyalty by providing additional data to help them during the holidays, when so many people are consuming more data with friends and family.”
Optus urged businesses with concerns to contact the company directly.
Advocacy groups such as the Consumer Action Law Center want the telecommunications industry in general to face more direct regulation and be forced to offer stronger protections to consumers.
“The telecommunications industry and the services it provides are… the technological backbone of the economy and society,” said Tania Clarke, director of policy and campaigns at the Consumer Action Law Centre.
“We would say that this (consumer protection) needs to be enshrined in law and we need stronger regulation, so that it doesn’t just rely on telcos to do the right thing.
“So I hope this will be the line in the sand just to show how important this service is to all Australians.”
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