Optus Pays $1.5M ACMA Fine For Triple-Zero Breaches

Melbourne, Australia - August 6, 2015: A woman walks past an Optus store on Bourke St. Optus is the second largest telecommunications company in Australia.

Optus has apologised (again) to its customers and paid a $1.5 million fine to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) after an investigation found it had breached public safety rules relating to triple-zero and emergency services.

The ACMA investigation found that close to 200,000 Optus customers were left at risk as the telco failed to upload information to a database used by emergency services between January 2021 and September 2023.

The IPND database is used to send emergency alert text messages to warn Australians of floods and bushfires and by triple-zero to provide location information to the police, ambulance and fire brigade in an emergency.

ACMA member Samantha Yorke said that the watchdog started the investigation after an audit found that Optus had failed to upload data via its outsourced supplier, Prvidr. The issue related to customers on Optus’ Coles Mobile and Catch Connect brands.

“When emergency services are hindered there can be very serious consequences for the safety of Australians,” Yorke said.

“While we are not aware of anyone being directly harmed due to the non-compliance in this case, it’s alarming that Optus placed so many customers in this position for so long.

“Optus cannot outsource its obligations, even if part of the process is being undertaken by a third party.

“All telcos need to have systems in place that ensure they are meeting their obligations, including having robust oversight and assurance processes for third-party suppliers.”

Yorke added that Optus could face action in the Federal Court and further penalties of up to $10 million per breach.

Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin stepped down following a bruising Senate inquiry last year. She told the Senate that more than 200 triple-zero calls were unable to connect during the company’s outage in November — though later revealed the number was more than ten times higher.

“We don’t manage the triple-zero system. It’s a very complex system that involves all the carriers … We’re still investigating that, and we’re really happy that the ACMA has called an investigation into why this did not work,” Bayer Rosmarin said at the time. She has yet to be replaced.

The telco has also not had a chief marketing officer since Mel Hopkins, now of Seven, resigned following Optus’ huge data breach at the end of 2022. Former Crown Resorts CMO Danielle Keighery is set to join Optus as managing director, marketing and corporate affairs in “early 2024.”

Telstra also suffered a smaller 90-minute outage on 23 February between 3.30am and 5am, during which connection to triple-zero was unavailable. One Melbourne father dying during the outage after his family’s call to paramedics did not connect. Telstra CEO Vicki Brady has apologised.

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