Telecom Watchdog, a non-profit organization, has filed a criminal case against Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink. The NGO alleged that Starlink Internet services are cheating Indian users. V Raghunandan, secretary of Telecom Watchdog, wrote two letters to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India seeking action against the tech giant. Also Read - Elon Musk hopes he has enough wealth to 'extend life to Mars'
The letter states, “You are requested to take immediate action to stop this illegal activity of Starlink; and order filing of the criminal case against the company under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for cheating.” Also Read - Starlink releasing soon: Check if the broadband service will be available in your area
Starlink Country Director Sanjay Bhargava earlier said that the number of pre-bookings in India has crossed the 5000 marks. The company is working to extend its broadband services in rural areas. Also Read - Starlink release date in India, pre-booking details, plans prices, activation kit, and more details
We explain the latest updates on the criminal case filed against Starlink in 5 points.
Starlink broadband pre-orders
SpaceX’s satellite-based internet service is available for pre-orders in India. The pre-orders are available in select states including — Ahmedabad (Gujarat), Tadepalligudem (Andhra Pradesh), and Indore (Madhya Pradesh). The company is taking a refundable deposit of $99 (about Rs 7,350) with the promise that users will get a data speed of 50 to 150 megabytes per second. Pre-bookings began in March 2021. The service is expected to be available by 2022.
No registered license
The NGO claims that Elon Musk’s tech giant is collecting money from users in India even before securing a license in the country. The company is collecting money in US dollars without even submitting an official application for the permit.
Terms and Conditions are hidden
Users can only read the terms and conditions after making the payment on the website. After the payment is made, customers are informed that there is no guarantee regarding the service. Additionally, the tariff will be confirmed after the service is launched in the country.
Collecting money against RBI guidelines
The non-profit organization claims that collecting money from Indian users in US dollars is an offense against RBI rules. The rule against collecting money in foreign capital states that one can issue invoices in foreign currency, but cannot ask or force payment in foreign currency from an Indian customer.
Starlink said in its statement that it would hold talks with parliamentarians, ministers, and top government officials on the importance of broadband internet connectivity in the changing lives of rural areas. But as of now, no official information is available from the Indian government.
Starlink registration outside India
As per the details available on the Department of Telecommunication (DOT) website, Starlink is registered in tax haven Ireland. Moreover, the company has not received any official license from the Indian government. Back in March 2021, the tech giant faced a challenge from Broadband India Forum, which looks after the country’s high-quality broadband.
The forum wrote to TRAI and ISRO asking to stop all investment and collection done by SpaceX in the name of pre-selling its satellite internet services. Starlink didn’t get a hands-on license back then as well.