Earlier this month, a little known Indian company called Ringing Bells created ripples by announcing an all-new smartphone called the Freedom 251 for an amazingly low price of just Rs. 251 ($3.60). While the announcement garnered a lot of media attention for the recently-incorporated company, industry analysts, tech writers and consumer rights advocacy groups debated about the possibility of seeing an actual, working smartphone at sort of a throwaway price. Many accused Ringing Bells of fraud, claiming that there’s no way a smartphone can be sold at that price unless subsidized heavily from some quarter or another. With the federal government already denying any involvement with the project, the senior management of the company was left to defend itself in the media against various accusations.
Now, the company has seemingly got embroiled in yet another controversy, with a BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) firm accusing it of fraud and non-payment of dues. According to the founder and CEO of third-party call-center operator Cyfuture, Mr. Anuj Bairathi, the company’s call-center handled hundreds of thousands of calls in the days following the stunning announcement of the ultra-affordable handset. “However, when we started asking for our payments, which were to be made to us on a weekly basis, they started making false allegations and abruptly decided to terminate our services citing unsatisfactory services”. According to Mr. Bairathi, this action of non-payment of dues and abrupt termination of contract without prior notice amounts to cheating, fraud and breach of contract. The deal between the two companies was reportedly in place for a minimum period of one year.
Ringing Bells, meanwhile has come out strongly against the allegations. The company’s President, Mr. Ashok Chaddha, claimed that Cyfuture’s services were terminated because of the BPO company’s failure to satisfactorily handle the large number of inquiries. According to him, “It came to our knowledge that the BPO company was not able to handle the traffic. We are looking into the situation to serve our customers better”. However, it seems like we haven’t heard the last of it, as Cyfuture plans to take this to the courts. The company says that it will file an official police complaint against Ringing Bells on Saturday. It remains to be seen what happens eventually, but these new controversies are not helping Ringing Bells, which is already facing a lot of questions from skeptics, many of whom are simply dismissing the upcoming Freedom 251 smartphone as ‘vaporware’.