Ringing Bells, the newly-incorporated Indian company that recently announced the highly-publicized Freedom 251 smartphone at the astonishing price-point of just Rs. 251 ($3.6), has been in the news for all the wrong reasons since then. It has been accused of passing off a Chinese-made smartphone as its own, while the third-party call-center operator which was handling all the enquiries on its behalf, sued the company for fraud and non-payment of dues. However, all of that pales into insignificance when compared to the kind of trouble the company now finds itself in, as the country’s Union Cabinet Minister for Telecommunications, Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad, has now revealed that various departments of the federal government are currently investigating the company for a number of alleged unlawful activities.
According to Mr. Prasad, Ringing Bells is being investigated for FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) violations by the ED (Enforcement Directorate), which is a federal law enforcement agency responsible for investigating white-collar economic crimes in the country. As if that wasn’t enough, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has apparently also been looking into the company’s financials, while the Department of Electronics and IT (DeitY) is investigating all the allegations regarding the much talked-about smartphone itself. The report also claims that back in February, the Corporate Affairs Ministry had directed the SFIO (Serious Fraud Investigations Office) to start investigating the controversial company, based on all the negative publicity surrounding the company since the announcement of the Freedom 251 smartphone.
According to a written statement from Mr. Prasad regarding the matter, “On the basis of the report of SFIO, Ministry of Corporate Affairs vide letter dated February 25, 2016 has advised Regional Director (North Region) to direct RoC (Registrar of Companies), Delhi, to take up the matter with the company and its directors under Section 206 (1) of the Companies Act, 2013 and send a report through the Directorate”. All of which can only mean further troubles for Ringing Bells. The company also stands accused of not getting the Freedom 251 smartphone certified by the relevant federal authorities, before unveiling it to the media earlier this year. It will be interesting to see the next chapter in the ongoing saga unfold, now that the company is besieged from so many quarters.