11 June 2021

UPDATE: ChooseCBR "paused" for seven days to address technical issues

| Michael Weaver
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sign at the IGA supermarket at Deakin

A sign at the IGA supermarket at Deakin on Thursday 10 June. Photo: Supplied.

UPDATE 11 June, 9:45 am: The ACT Government has announced that the ChooseCBR scheme has been paused for seven days “to address ongoing technical issues”.

Consumers and businesses were informed of the decision early this morning (11 June).

“As you are aware, we took the ChooseCBR website offline yesterday to address the technical issues that were being experienced,” the Choose CBR said.

“We had hoped taking the site down would allow us to fully resolve these issues and prevent further frustrations for businesses and customers.

“Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to fully resolve the issues. Out of an abundance of caution — and so as to not cause further disruption and uncertainty — we have made the difficult decision to pause the program for a further seven days.”

More to come.

UPDATE 10 June, 4:00 pm: The ChooseCBR voucher scheme has been taken offline due to ongoing technical difficulties.

The announcement was made at 3:55 pm this afternoon by Business Minister Tara Cheyne.

It will remain offline until 7:00 am on Friday (11 June) to address issues that have plagued the ChooseCBR website since it launched on Wednesday.

“We have made the difficult decision to take the ChooseCBR site offline until 7:00 am on Friday, 11 June to address outstanding issues and ensure reliability,” Ms Cheyne said.

“However, despite applying a number of significant fixes overnight, a new issue has emerged today with the database.”

The decision to take the site offline has been communicated to all businesses and customers. More than $300,000 worth of vouchers have been claimed since the scheme went live.

“Where businesses have accepted vouchers from customers but not yet been able to redeem them, we will be honouring these, and instructions on how to be reimbursed will be sent to businesses via email.

Ms Cheyne said the ongoing technical issues were regrettable.

“The popularity of the program has far exceeded expectations, and the total amount that was claimed during the trial has nearly been reached less than two days in.

“We know this news is incredibly disappointing. We appreciate Canberrans continuing to treat local businesses and their staff with respect and kindness,” Ms Cheyne said.

1:30 pm: Teething problems continue for the ChooseCBR scheme which launched yesterday (9 June). The website crashed on day one and frustrated customers and businesses are reporting they are still unable to process vouchers more than 24 hours later.

The website was still having problems at 1:00 pm this afternoon.

The IGA Supermarket at Deakin went as far as putting a sign in its front window telling customers the ChooseCBR vouchers would not be accepted.

“We are no longer accepting ChooseCBR vouchers. The system is unreliable and causes too much distress for our staff and customers. We apologise for trying to participate in this program. Please understand this is out of our control,” the sign said.

Region Media understands other IGA supermarkets in Canberra are also declining the vouchers.

A cafe owner from Manuka also contacted Region Media to say questions needed to be asked why people could not access an ACT Government scheme worth $2 million.

“I don’t have time to contact the government and ask what is going on while I’ve got customers waiting more than 10 minutes during the small window I could process the vouchers yesterday,” said the cafe owner who preferred not to be named.

While Minister for Business and Better Regulation Tara Cheyne encouraged more than 50,000 customers to jump online to discover the huge variety of participating businesses, the reality was that discounts from the $2 million worth of digital vouchers could not be passed on.

Each day, customers who have signed up for the program can claim $80 worth of vouchers:

  • $10 off when they spend $20 or more
  • $20 off when they spend $40 or more
  • $50 off when they spend $100 or more.

One of those who tried to access the vouchers was David from Wanniassa. He took his family to the Star Buffet at the Burns Club in Kambah to use the vouchers on dinner for his family of four.

“Our bill was just over $100 and we wanted to use the $50 voucher,” he told Region Media.

“When the cashier tried to apply our discount, they were unable to process it, so we were left to pay the full amount. After our meal, the cashier tried again, but it still didn’t work.

“Basically, we’re out of pocket $50 and we weren’t the only ones. Lots of people in the queue tried to use the vouchers and everyone missed out.”

The ChooseCBR website showing site under maintenance

The ChooseCBR website on Thursday (10 June). Photo: Screenshot.

Problems were evident soon after its launch yesterday (9 June) when the site first crashed, leaving many people wondering how to access the scheme.

Alan Gibson contacted Region Media to say he tried to use a digital voucher for lunch and could only get a web page saying the site was ‘under maintenance’.

“I couldn’t use the vouchers,” he said.

“Although it worked when I checked this morning, and it worked at about 2:30 pm yesterday, it failed at the time it was needed. I’m not going to rely on vouchers again.”

Many businesses and customers also took to social media to vent their frustration at using the scheme which was trialled last year with $500,000 worth of vouchers.

Minister Tara Cheyne was left to respond to many on social media, sympathising with Canberrans trying to access the scheme.

“I know it’s been frustrating,” she said. “The support we have seen has outstripped what we had during the trial 3-1 and it’s caused new issues for the website. We are doing everything we can to give a better experience.”

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ChooseCBR will run until the $2 million in funding is expended.

Anyone aged 18 or over, from Canberra or interstate, can sign up to get their vouchers on the ChooseCBR website.

Shadow Business Minister Leanne Castley said the ACT Government’s much-hyped improvements to the scheme were “unacceptable”.

“Let’s not forget this is the second attempt at launching the ChooseCBR program and on both occasions, there have been significant problems,” Ms Castley said.

“The Labor-Greens Government has had more than enough time since the COVID-19 pandemic began to support small businesses in the ACT and to this point, they have failed.

“Now I fear the ChooseCBR program is going the same way. If this program does not help small business, it is a $2 million waste of money.”

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A scheme like this is akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic, as opposed to meaningful reforms, planning and infrastructure investment that support the sustainable growth of living standards and productivity. I wonder how much it costs ACT ratepayers and businesses for the ACT government to redistribute this $2m. Just more wasteful ACT government spending at the ratepayers expense.

“The popularity of the program has far exceeded expectations”.
Says it all really. After all who would have thought giving away free money would be popular. Well done ACT government on another well implemented program.

Which peanut recommended stores like Chemist Warehouse and IGA be added to the list?

Yes, let’s let people by things at half-price at stores which thrived during COVID-19. Ain’t the same struggling restaurants and entertainment venues… duh

Dunno bout you guys but I’m going to buy some crappy CW perfume and sell it on eBay as well as stock pile 1k rolls of toilet paper I share-bought with the ACT govt, at IGA.

Another textbook ACT govt fail. What an embarrassment.

If they can’t successfully run a simple website like this (at the 2nd attempt) thank goodness they don’t have to run anything important, like say a hospital system….

HiddenDragon6:51 pm 10 Jun 21

Might be better to can this fiasco and use the remaining money for a vaccination rewards/incentive program –


It was a Tarrible idea. If small businesses needed support (which they most certainly do) it would have been better to cut their ACT rates and taxes, not give out non-means tested vouchers to those who don’t need it, as a form of middle class welfare or voter bribery. It was a poorly thought out, poorly implemented and totally ineffectual and inefficient waste of public (our) money.

Yes, every time I’ve tried to use it over the last two days it has failed.

Can’t believe the government have stuffed up a PR exercise that should have been simple to implement. Massive fail.

Capital Retro5:33 pm 10 Jun 21

Consistent with lots of fails in the past 20 years but who really cares?

CBR is just a slush fund for pet projects.

What’s going on this time around? We used the scheme last year and it worked perfectly. The webpage looks the same, most of the same businesses are participating yet we have these problems. Last year was meant to iron out the bugs and that indeed happened. So this years scheme was supposed to run like clockwork. For some reason it isn’t. Why?

At the same time the New South Wales government has an almost identical vouchers scheme operating and they’ve had no problems. We have a much smaller population yet we have all these problems with our vouchers scheme. Heads will have to roll over this. This is just straight out incompetence.

I am a Rabbit™9:15 pm 10 Jun 21

The NSW App had a significant outage last week, so I’m not sure if I would call them any better.

Same issues as flagged in the article. Had a meal at a cafe yesterday, had the codes ready, but the store couldn’t process them and had to pay full price.

I called Access Canberra, and was told the cafe could have noted down the code, and given me the discount and tried to redeem it later. They asked me to return to the cafe and ask if they would refund me the difference and claim the code again, but I was already back home and didn’t want to go out again for potentially no gain.

I feel for the cafe owners though, it’s quite risky for retailers to take on if the code was wrong, or copied incorrectly. I feel the government’s official phone advice is that the cafes/retailers should offer the discount out of goodwill is pretty tough.

I asked whether instead, the government had an ability for me to send a receipt through and be reimbursed, but was told that was going to be too difficult. Would have thought it was basic continuity planning for a $2M scheme – what is our process if the website fails?

Worked fine for me yesterday. Saved $20 on a meal.

You remember that Small Business Advisory Council the “Minister” Tara Cheyne said she didn’t need…

We went out with my elderly father for dinner and he wanted to pay using the voucher (cheap club meal, so nothing special). You guessed it the system failed. (I even did a test run beforehand which worked for him).

The ACT Government has completely lost focus on the basics and continues to stuff things up.

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