Delhi-based NGO Telecom Watchdog has said that the Department of Telecom’s actions against Elon Musk’s Starlink was “highly belated and inadequate.”
DoT on Friday had asked Starlink to stop pre-booking subscribers as it is not licensed to offer satellite-based internet services as is being advertised in the media.
Telecom Watchdog had brought the matter to DoT’s notice almost two months ago, stating that Starlink was taking pre-bookings at a cost of ₹7,500 each from customers, in order to put them in the priority queue once services were live in India. As of October 1, Starlink had taken pre-bookings from over 5,000 customers.
“The DoT took as many as 58 days to issue direction for something which could have been done in hours. In between, many more innocent consumers got cheated. As per the statement made by the Managing Director of StarLink, in September 2021 they had collected $99 each from over 5,000 customers in India. This figure now stands at a little over 11,000. That means over $1,089,000 has been collected by them so far in foreign exchange. This is in gross violation of the RBI guidelines related to end-use. No accountability has been fixed for this delay, even though in our letter we had annexed all easily & readily verifiable evidences,” Telecom Watchdog said.
According to Telecom Watchdog, even the late action taken by the DoT is inadequate, since the DoT has not issued any direction to Starlink to refund the money.
“A timebound refund, with interest and without incurring any loss to them on account of foreign exchange fluctuation, etc., should have been an integral part of the order,” said Telecom Watchdog, in their letter to the Secretary, DoT.
Now the NGO is requesting the DoT to order filing of a criminal case against Starlink for cheating, refund to citizens the entire money with interest and without any deductions, conduct an investigation into the entire episode on how Starlink could launch the pre-booking since February 2021 and issue strict disciplinary action against the officers for delayed and inadequate action on the issue.