Australia demands Optus pay for new customer ID documents

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s federal and state governments on Wednesday called for Optus to pay for replacing identification documents including passports and driver’s licenses to avoid identity fraud after 9.8 million of the telecommunications company’s customers had personal data stolen by computer hackers.

The Australian government has blamed lax cybersecurity at Optus for last week's unprecedented breach of current and former customers' personal information.

Most at risk of identity theft are the 2.8 million customers who had driver’s license and passport numbers stolen.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese rejected opposition lawmakers’ calls for the government to waive the costs of replacing compromised Optus customers’ passports.

“We believe that Optus should pay, not taxpayers,” Albanese told Parliament.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong wrote to Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin on Wednesday requesting her “earliest confirmation” that the Sydney-based company would pay for vulnerable customers’ passports.

“There is no justification for these Australians — or for taxpayers more broadly on their behalf — to bear the cost of obtaining a new passport,” Wong wrote.

Optus did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Different states have had varying responses to requests for driver’s license replacements — Queensland and South Australia have announced free replacements for affected customers while New South Wales will charge Optus customers for replacement licenses. But the state government has said it expects Optus will offer reimbursements within days. Victoria state has also asked Optus to pay for new licenses, but continues to charge the company's customers.

Optus this week offered its “most affected” customers free credit monitoring for a year.

Rod Mcguirk, The Associated Press