Privacy breach could cost Optus

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has made a ground-breaking class action complaint against Optus for disclosing the personal details of 50,000 customers, the first class action against a telco seeking compensation for a breach of privacy.

The telecommunications giant revealed last October that it had published the customers’ personal details, including home addresses.

In what is an important test of Australia’s privacy laws, the class action is expected to seek compensation for affected customers.

Under the Privacy Act, corporations that disclose the personal details of clients face penalties including fines.

But until now no class action using the act has been brought on behalf of customers seeking compensation. Under the act, consumers may be compensated for privacy breaches.

The class action alleges Optus failed in its duties:

  • Disclosing personal information of customers.
  • Disclosing private information originally collected for another purpose, namely the provision of Optus services. The disclosure of personal information in phone directories was a secondary purpose and was not consented to by customers.
  • Failing to take steps to protect the privacy of its customers.

Maurice Blackburn’s Elizabeth O’Shea said privacy breaches are an increasing problem as companies become increasingly entrusted with personal information.

“When people share personal information about themselves with companies, especially large ones, they expect that data to be held securely, and for it to be used only in lawful ways,” Ms O’Shea said.

“Too often we see reports of data mismanagement, and it’s time for companies to be held accountable for this.

“Bad practices in data management can have real world consequences for people, and to make companies understand that we will need to start taking them to court.”

Affected Optus customers can register by emailing [email protected] or calling 1800 318 061.

Are you worried about your privacy? Are you an Optus customer? Will you be seeking compensation?

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