A high-profile Optus customer has been left furious after discovering a massive phone bill while on an overseas trip.
Melbourne-based LGBTIQ activist and campaigner, Sally Rugg, claims she was charged $1,600 by Optus within two minutes of landing in London a few weeks ago.
The embattled telco company is facing a huge fallout following a major outage on November 8 which crippled millions of customers, leaving them without mobile phone or internet reception for hours.
Thousands of businesses were also impacted – some losing thousands of dollars when payment systems reliant on Optus connections crashed.
Melbourne activist and campaigner Sally Rugg claims she was hit with $1,600 of mobile phone charges from Optus minutes after landing in London
Melbourne-based LGBTIQ activist and campaigner, Sally Rugg, claims she was charged $1,600 by Optus within two minutes of landing in London a few weeks ago
Ms Rugg shared the shock news to social media platform X on Saturday.
‘Wanna hear another @Optus horror story?’ she wrote.
‘I landed in London 2wks ago & within 2 MN I’d been charged $1600… didn’t use my phone at all, it was in my pocket (pinging w texts about insane charges).
‘@Optus tells me the charges are “valid” so won’t waive them.’
Ms Rugg added: ‘This isn’t even one of those old-timey Returning From Overseas To A $1600 Bill bc You Didn’t Realise Roaming Was On situations — this happened within 2 mins without me even touching my phone!’
An Optus representative quickly responded to Ms Rugg’s public post.
‘Hi Sally, sorry to hear about your roaming charges issue. You can lodge your complaint here followed by a link,’ they said, followed by a link to a website.
A company spokesperson also replied: ‘It will be referred to our Customer Relations Group who’re the highest point of escalation within our organisation and they handle both internal and external complaints’.
Ms Rugg, who was the creative and campaigns director of left-wing activist organisation GetUP between 2013 and 2018, said she had already spoken to Optus staff who had informed her that ‘the charges were valid’.
One commentor, who claimed to be an ex-telco regulator, urged Ms Rugg to formally make a complaint against Optus.
‘Make sure they give you a complaint number and then register that with the ombudsman. Those charges are unacceptable,’ they said.
‘That’s crazy! They totally need to refund you!,’ another said, to which Ms Rugg replied: ‘Oh I definitely haven’t paid it (and have switched off my direct debit so @Optus can’t take it from me before I can the charges to Consumer Affairs)’.
Some sympathised with Ms Rugg’s plight, sharing stories of similar experiences.
‘This also happened to me today!’ one wrote.
‘Within 5 minutes of landing in Dubai I had three emails and messages in succession telling me I had spent $150 on roaming (which I have switched off on my phone). Ticked off? You bet.’
Others labelled the charges as ‘outrageous’.
Daily Mail Australia contacted Optus for comment.
Ms Rugg has been urged to make a formal complaint about the Optus charges
Until her highly publicised dismissal in 2022, Ms Rugg also served as the chief of staff for Independent MP Monique Ryan.
In May, Ms Rugg settled her workplace law case against the independent MP and the commonwealth for $100,000.
The nationwide Optus fail sent public transport in Melbourne into chaos, with Metro Trains revealing the outage prevented the control centre from communicating with trains.
Hospitals and emergency services across the country were also affected.
Ramsay Health Care said phone services to its 70 hospitals and clinics were impacted. Emergency triple zero calls were not working from Optus landlines.
The Optus outage was the second major crisis for the telco in the last 12 months after a cybersecurity breach last year compromised the personal data of millions of customers.
On Monday, Optus revealed the outage was caused by changes to ‘routing information’ following a software upgrade at the telco.
Some 10.2 million customers had no internet or mobile access for about 13.5 hours.
Services went down about 4.05am and weren’t fully restored until 5.35pm.
In a statement, Optus said their network ‘received changes to routing information from an international peering network following a routine software upgrade’.
‘These routing information changes propagated through multiple layers in our network and exceeded preset safety levels on key routers which could not handle these,’ their statement said.
‘This resulted in those routers disconnecting from the Optus IP Core network to protect themselves.’
Some 10.2 million Optus customers had no internet or mobile access for about 13.5 hours on November 8
Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin didn’t speak publicly on the day of the crisis for several hours, calling ABC Radio via WhatsApp shortly after 10.30am for a short interview about the matter.
She faced intense backlash for appearing to go missing during those crucial early hours, but this week told an inquiry she had good reason for the decision.
‘I wanted to ensure before I spoke that we could at least rule out the possibility of malicious activity,’ she said.
‘As soon as our cyber specialists ruled this out, I began publicly fronting the issue on behalf of my team.’
The Australian Business Network has reported that Optus could be forced to pay up to $400m in compensation if it enters an agreement with the regulator.
Thousands of customers have also joined a class-action lawsuit against the telco after their personal information was hacked in 2022.
Up to nine million Aussies were stung in the data breach, which exposed their names, dates of birth, phone numbers, email addresses, and, for a subset of customers, addresses and ID document numbers such as a driver’s licence or passport number.