Leaders from the Internal Workers Front (FIT), a coalition of seven unions from the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE), are accusing members of the Telecommunications Superintendency (SUTEL) Council of a conflict of interest and are pushing for their removal from the regulatory agency.
According to FIT coordinator Fabio Chaves, SUTEL granted a contract to two private-practice attorneys who previously testified as experts in a lawsuit against ICE by the private mobile carrier Movistar. That lawsuit resulted in a ₡2.2 billion ($4 million) fine levied by SUTEL against ICE for alleged unfair competition involving discounted offers for ICE phone service.
Chaves reported that SUTEL hired lawyers Pamela Sittenfeld and Diego Petrocolla in a public bid to draft an “anticompetitive behavior guide” and an analysis of “concentrations in the telecommunications sector.”
Those same lawyers were called as experts during the complaint that Movistar raised against ICE that ended in the ruling against the state-owned company for monopolistic practices.
“It is unbelievable that [SUTEL] accepts witnesses paid by an ICE competitor and then hires them and pays them ₡25 million [$46,000]. This is wrongdoing by SUTEL, they are benefitting [private] telecom operators,” Chaves said at a press conference.
SUTEL spokeswoman Ivannia Morales said that Movistar filed the complaint against ICE in 2011, and that ICE “in a public and transparent public bid years later” hired these people to draft guidelines that “have nothing to do with this current situation and that were not used to impose the fine against ICE.”
In addition to calling for the dismissal of SUTEL’s council members, Chaves demanded the Public Services Regulatory Authority open an investigation of all of their actions and reverse the sanction against ICE.
“We will give SUTEL some time to lift the fine or else we will take to the streets and denounce this situation,” Chaves said.
ICE last week appealed the sanction, which also includes orders to refrain from conducting promotions similar to those that caused Movistar’s complaint.