In the wake of Optus' recent phone and internet outage, affecting over 10 million customers, according to the ABC many Australians have been left questioning their rights and potential legal recourse. In response to public pressure, Optus has offered eligible customers 200GB of bonus data as compensation. The CEO acknowledges the network's priority and expressed gratitude for customers' patience, aiming to provide additional data during the holidays. But are you entitled to more? This blog post delves into the legal landscape surrounding the outage and explores whether customers can sue Optus for damages.

Can you sue Optus? Consumer rights under Australian law 

According to Australian consumer law, businesses are obligated to compensate for "loss or damage caused by the failure to meet a consumer guarantee." However, this is limited due to certain caveats, such as telco contracts often not guaranteeing uninterrupted service. To make a legal claim, customers must establish that, amongst other things,  Optus failed to provide its service with "reasonable care."

Legal challenges and compensation claims

The legal pathway is not straightforward, as determining the cause of the outage is crucial. Until the reason behind the breach is revealed, proving that Optus failed to provide the service properly becomes challenging.

However, while Optus might not be legally obligated to compensate at the moment, affected customers can still pursue a claim. The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman encourages those who suffered losses to keep records, calculate compensation, and contact Optus directly. If dissatisfied with Optus's response, the ombudsman can mediate and direct compensation up to $100,000 for financial losses.

Can you cancel an existing contract?

The process of canceling contracts also varies based on the plan and device. Prepaid or month-to-month mobile customers have simpler options, while those on long-term plans may face complexities. Seeking compensation from Optus might include the possibility of canceling contracts early, but be aware that contractual clauses may require payment for the remaining period of the contract.

At this stage proving a legal case against Optus might be challenging due to the circumstances surrounding the outage. The ombudsman suggests approaching Optus directly for compensation, emphasising the importance of doing what is right in the circumstances. If you have sufferered loss, we recommend obtaining advice on your personal circumstances to ascertain whether you have a viable claim against Optus.

New South Lawyers’ communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. To that end, people should not rely on this communication as legal advice. Accordingly, they should seek formal legal advice for matters of interest arising from this communication.

To find out more, chat with a member of the New South Lawyers Commercial Law Team today.