Customer Complaints Jumped After Optus Outage, Telco Ombudsman Reveals

Customer Complaints Jumped After Optus Outage, Telco Ombudsman Reveals

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has revealed that complaints in the final quarter of 2023 increased partially due to the Optus outage. 

The data showed a 13.4 per cent increase in complaints between October and December, the Optus outage happened on November 8.  

A total of 919 consumers complained to the ombudsman over the outage, 20 per cent of those included small businesses and complaints about lost business rose by 35.7 per cent. 

While the Optus outage increased complaints, the data reveals Telstra had more complaints than Optus, with 36.8 per cent of all complaints in the quarter, while those about Optus made up 31.4 per cent.

While complaints increased from the previous quarter, from the same quarter in 2022, complaints were actually down 17.9 per cent. 

The highest complaints were observed in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Moreton Bay, the Sunshine Coast, and Wyndham. 

After the outage, Optus offered 200GB of additional data to compensate for the 14 hours of no coverage. The Ombudsman commented on the compensation noting it was “was likely not enough for many customers”. 

“For some people, the offer of free data to compensate for a full-day outage is fair and reasonable. But businesses who lost profit, people who couldn’t call triple zero, or who experienced other significant losses told us that free data is not enough,” Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert said. 

Optus also offered speed boosts on NBN plans.

The November 8 outage was caused by a software update, where information from an international peering network partner “propagated through multiple layers in our network and exceeded preset safety levels on key routers. This resulted in those routers disconnecting from the Optus IP Core network to protect themselves,” Optus said in a statement in November.

Optus technicians worked to restore their mobile and internet networks manually. As many as 2,697 emergency calls couldn’t go through. Then CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin resigned following senate scrutiny.

Less financial hardship

According to the Ombudsman, 451 people contacted them about financial hardship or repayment arrangements. 

Gebert said, “Despite the increase in complaints this quarter-on-quarter, it’s really pleasing to see that financial hardship complaints have decreased, along with the continued year-on-year decline.”

Following complaints about network outages, or not having internet or phone service, complaints about delays in establishing a service rose by 25.8 per cent.

“If consumers or small businesses need help resolving a phone or internet problem with their telco, they should contact us on 1800 062 058 or make a complaint online,” the Ombudsman added. Optus declined to comment to Gizmodo Australia.

Image: iStock.