Optus has been forced to apologise after a customer received a very blunt response from staff when he contacted the company with a question in the wake of its disruptive, hours-long outage.
The telco’s response to the massive 12-hour nationwide blackout on Wednesday that affected 10 million customers has been to give them up to an extra 200GB of data for their ‘patience and loyalty’.
The blackout prevented people and businesses from making and receiving calls and completing transactions, with CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin not publicly appearing until several hours into the drama, leaving the communications minister to front cameras.
One Optus user took to Reddit to share their interaction with customer service when he questioned 70GB of bonus data added to his account after the debacle.
He claimed the company had cancelled his $30 a month plan with 15GB of data and bumped him up to a more expensive plan in the process – and that he didn’t even use a fraction of the 15GB anyway.
But the icing on the cake was the response he received telling him the change was ‘automatically being actioned’ and that he was given the choice to cancel the plan before the change automatically occurred.
The final line was a curt: ‘Either you will stay or you will not’.
An Optus customer has taken to Reddit to share the ‘unexpected’ response they recieved to a question
Optus told Daily Mail Australia users are contacted by SMS and email before any such changes are made and they have the option to opt out.
‘We recognise that, in this specific instance, a customer’s experience didn’t match our standards and we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused,’ a spokesperson said.
‘Optus is committed to delivering transparent and timely customer service when handling complaints.’
‘Our representative will receive feedback and guidance on best practices for effective communication with our customers.’
Commenters on the Redditor’s original post said the response was ‘unprofessional’ and that customers had to do more work to cancel a change to their account that they had not asked for.
Ms Bayer Rosmarin said earlier this week the bonus data worth $100 would be given to customers by way of apology for the outage.
It is the second debacle for the company in a little over 12 months after a massive hack in September 2022 saw the information of 10million customers compromised.
Ms Bayer Rosmarin has been grappling with her own PR disasters linked to her response to both incidents, which has been widely criticised.
She had said she would release the recommendations of a report into the 2022 hack, conducted by Deloitte, but has since backtracked, with the company fighting not to release any details from the inquiry.
On Wednesday, it was not until mid-morning that Ms Bayer Rosmarin made any public statements on the outage despite no service across the country since 4am.
A glamorous photoshoot at her Sydney mansion went ahead as customers, business and essential services like trains and hospitals grappled with the chaos.
She then appeared to downplay the disruption when the owner of North Sydney Barbers complained he could not take payments with EFTPOS.
‘(Cutting hair) seems like one of the few things you can do without connectivity,’ she said.
Manager Jake Azar responded: ‘If she does her job, I can do my job’.
Kelly Bayer Rosmarin (pictured) has been the Optus CEO since April 1, 2020, but most people only hear her name when the company gets caught up in a public relations disaster
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said small businesses may be entitled to further compensation.
‘Small businesses that have suffered loss or damage that were reasonably foreseeable due to the failure to provide the service may be entitled to compensation and this will vary based on the specific circumstances,’ an ACCC spokesperson said.
Federal Labor minister Bill Shorten on Friday said the extra data wouldn’t ‘touch the sides’ of customer frustration and encouraged small businesses to speak with their account managers.
‘The telecommunications industry ombudsman can assist small businesses who are dissatisfied with the responses, I would encourage those customers to keep records, to document the impacts of the outage on them, but it was a nightmare for everyone,’ he told Sydney radio 2GB.
Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson said issues faced by small businesses on the Optus network hadn’t been addressed and rejected suggestions by the telco any compensation for loss would amount to $2 a day.
‘Small businesses rely on telecommunications as an essential service, but they have been poorly served by Optus throughout this event and some have suffered a significant economic cost,’ he said.
Customers, politicians and business figures have criticised Optus over the outage, with the Greens securing a Senate inquiry into the disaster and the federal government launching a review.
Business and personal customers were left without access to essential phone and internet services for more than 12 hours on Wednesday
In September last year, the company suffered a massive data breach that affected millions of Australians who had sensitive documents, including passport and Medicare numbers, leaked online.
Optus claimed the outage was caused by a ‘network event’ that triggered a cascading failure. Its engineers are investigating the issue.
Nationals leader David Littleproud said it highlighted a need to mandate domestic mobile roaming in rural and remote areas, so users can get on services outside their own network’s coverage.
‘We need a common sense approach to this problem … by starting mobile roaming in regional, rural and remote areas we can target it in the areas of greatest need,’ he said.
‘The urgency for the regions is the tyranny of distance we face and the threat of natural disaster emergencies such as the upcoming bushfire season.’