From the Newsroom

Optus outage sees cash return

Emma Pritchard


As the fallout from the Optus outage which occurred on November 8 continues to be felt across the country, the push to transition Australia into a cashless society has come under scrutiny.

Thousands of businesses experienced significant disruptions with many reverting to cash-only payments while EFTPOS machines, rendered useless by the network blackout, sat silently on counter tops.

Unable to process payments, others were forced to close their doors, losing millions of dollars collectively in revenue.

Across the Clarence Valley, a number of businesses including retail outlets, cafes, and op shops, recorded a reduction in sales with many customers unable to complete their purchases via digital transactions.

But in the days following the Optus outage, several local businesses have reported an increase in cash payments, with hundreds of customers opting to hand over notes and coins in lieu of tapping their cards.

Jess Wood, Manager of The Book Warehouse in Grafton, which was forced to trade for several hours without its EFTPOS machine during the Optus outage, told the Clarence Valley Independent the business had seen a steady flow of cash payments since November 8, and said the widespread inconveniences caused by the telecommunications failure is proof Australia is not ready to go cashless.

“The Optus outage is a perfect example of what would happen if we went cashless,” she explained.

“People wouldn’t be able to pay for their groceries, or medication, and every business would be compromised.

“We’re seeing a lot of people who still want to pay with cash, and we still need to have those payment options available.”

While her business wasn’t impacted by the Optus outage, owner and manager of Purple Haze Espresso Bar in Grafton, Leisa Connolly believes a cashless society is not the way forward.

“I definitely think we still need cash,” she said, adding a majority of her customers frequently use notes and coins.

“Our older generations love their money, and they’re not used to tapping and paying with cards.

“It’s still a new concept to them, and not everybody likes using cards to make payments.

“There are also businesses which rely solely on cash payments, and if we were a cashless society and another large-scale network outage happened, nobody would be able to pay for anything.”