The world's cheapest phone, Freedom 251, is in murky waters once again. Its maker Ringing Bells has started to refund early customers who had made payments through the website.
The company had tied up with payment gateway CCAvenue for the sale of Freedom 251. But the sale was halted after initial 30000 transactions were made as the servers faced heavy load. Now all the payments for the phone will be done through the cash on delivery mode once the orders are confirmed.
A report in ET suggested that a total of ₹84 lakh was paid to 14800 unique customers. In the report, Vishal Patel, CEO of Avenues India said "due to negative publicity in media and scrutiny by the government, the merchant has asked us to refund all transactions."
The phone has hit a storm of controversy since its launch. The devices given to the media had white paint on it with the phone having the Adcom branding. A lot of people from the industry and consumers had raised the question of how the phone can be this cheap while the components are costlier than ₹251.
The phone's website was poorly made too. With the website being inaccessible many time in the day it had no HTTPS protection for registration. And it even leaked the user data upon manually changing the order number in the order confirmation URL. The company was also accused of copying iPhone's look and feel in terms of the software and the hardware.
In a letter to the media, co-founder Ashok Chaddha had denied all allegations saying, "We wanted to provide a 'made in India' handset. But we faced problem on finding scratch proof components. So we sourced the components from ADCOM for the prototype. The final handset will have a different look".
He also said, "Our icons are not copied from apple you can see that in prototype too. Also, we are in the process of registering with BIS and we have already obtained Google Developer License." When we asked that have you registered with Qualcomm for 3G technology, he responded by saying, "At present we are using Spreadtrum Chip set then why do we need to register with Qualcomm?"
Consumers are still waiting for solid answers and commitment from Ringing Bells. Meanwhile, the government has distanced itself from the Freedom 251.