Rogue contractors con fibre broadband clients

Some fibre broadband customers have been allegedly tricked by rogue contractors of sole network builder Netlink Trust (NLT) to pay a fee to speed up installation works.

Customers typically wait two weeks for NLT contractors to turn up and install fibre points or activate fibre links, after placing an order with Internet service providers (ISPs) like Singtel or StarHub.

The Straits Times learnt that two customers living in separate condominiums in the east were allegedly told by NLT contractors to pay a fee in cash to have the installation done immediately.

The customers did not have fibre points in the homes they recently moved into, and arranged for the installation to be done last month.

The workers claimed the condos had not given approval for installation and, without immediate payment in cash, they would have to wait another two weeks for the job to be done.

When contacted, NLT said it was not aware of the incidents but confirmed the payments are not legitimate. It urged consumers to report such cases.

One of the alleged victims, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lee, told ST the installer said he needed two more weeks to get the condo management's approval.

"But he could speed things along if I was willing to pay some money," said Mr Lee, 42.

The asking price was $500 but Mr Lee had only $30 with him.

The contractor allegedly accepted the money and installed the fibre point in his home.

It was a similar story for Mr Tan, 45, who said he was asked to pay $500 to avoid waiting another two weeks.

"I need Internet access for work and could not wait that long," said Mr Tan, who eventually paid $150.

It is not known if the same contract worker was involved in both cases.

ST understands that private residences that are five years or older tend to be targets for the scam. NLT and ISPs stopped absorbing the cost of installing the fibre point from 2014.

ISPs bill consumers for such installations on behalf of NLT, and no direct payments to contract workers should be made.

New private residential properties have fibre points as developers have been required by law to install them since May 2013.

Mr Jimmie Ling of the Association of Management Corporations in Singapore said condo managers need at most two days to approve works by NLT contractors.

"In most cases, all the NLT workers had to do is inform the condo manager - fibre point installation is a standard process that is known to all condo managers," he added.

This article by The Straits Times was published in The New Paper, a free newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.