Emma Pritchard and Rodney Stevens
Across the country, more than 10 million Optus customers were left red-faced on November 8 when one of Australia’s leading telecommunications networks experienced a nationwide outage, leaving many without phone and internet access for more than 12 hours.
Transport and health services were thrown into chaos, and hundreds of thousands of businesses were financially compromised when they were unable to accept electronic payments.
Manager of The Book Warehouse in Grafton Jess Wood told the Clarence Valley Independent the business has had their EFTPOS service provided to them through Optus for five years, and while they had previously experienced terminal issues, the recent outage was the most significant interruption to date.
“At least one in every three sales during the day was inconvenienced,” she explained.
“While most people were understanding and came back with cash to complete their purchases, and a small number of customers had cash on them, a few people were cranky because we couldn’t accept payments via card.
“The outage cost us an estimated $1000 in revenue, and that hurt us as a rural business.”
Ms Wood said The Book Warehouse in Grafton did not receive any communication directly from Optus, and their EFTPOS machine did not come back online until after 3pm.
While the Optus outage impacted personal customers from the Lower Clarence, when the Clarence Valley Independent visited most of the businesses in the Yamba CBD, only two business owners where affected, although some Yamba Fair retailers were forced to accept cash only, and a couple of businesses in Iluka closed.
Most business owners said due to the patchy Optus coverage locally, they use Telstra.
The day after Wednesday’s outage, Optus announced both business and personal customers will receive 200GB of free data, and they have until the end of 2023 to activate it.
Emily Donkin, owner of Near The Sea on Coldstream Street, said her business was only mildly affected as they couldn’t process orders through their system, but her EFTPOS was not affected as it uses the Telstra network.
She said she received no communication from Optus about the outage, but she welcomed the free data Optus has offered as compensation.
“The compensation Optus offered is better than nothing, for my business we will definitely utilise the data,” she said.
Maclean Framing and Gallery owner Krissi Mayo said her business was significantly affected as her EFTPOS machine didn’t work all day until 4pm.
“My customers had to go to the bank or to Spar to get cash to pay with,” she said.
“With the banks that have closed in Maclean and Yamba it makes it difficult to get cash as there are only two ATM’s in banks at Maclean.”
- Following the Optus outage, Australia’s transition to a cashless society has continued to fall under scrutiny. Make sure you pick up a copy of the Clarence Valley Independent next week when we speak with local business owners and residents, and ask them if cash is making a comeback, or consumers remain committed to the digital world.