ICE Faces Record Fine for Charging Unauthorized Fees

October 23, 2009

The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) faces a fine for unauthorized service fees charged to the telecommunications company Radiomensajes, the Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP) reported this week.

The fine, of more than ¢1.5 billion ($2.6 million), is the largest amount ever imposed on a public institution in Costa Rica.

According to ARESEP, from Oct. 1, 2005 to Jan. 31, 2009, ICE overcharged Radiomensajes for use of a 900 number. Though ICE set up the 900 number for the telecommunications company, ARESEP reported that over the three-year span ICE withheld 28 percent of the earnings generated by the phone service.

The authorized amount of the tax that could be withheld for the service was 3.86 percent.

Regulatory officials estimated that the amount of earnings retained by ICE totaled ¢305,137,688 ($535,329). ICE must reimburse Radiomensajes the withheld amount, as well as pay the fine to the National Treasury, which is five times the amount of money withheld, ARESEP said in a news release. ICE, Costa Rica’s longtime telephone monopoly, is expected to appeal the fine in the

Administrative Contention Court

.

If the issue is brought before the court, it will mark the second time ICE has disputed regulatory intervention by ARESEP in the past two months. In September, ARESEP proposed a decrease in electricity rates through the remainder of the year due to savings earned by the reduced cost of fossil fuels. ICE disputed the rate reduction in the

Administrative Contention Court

, though the court ruled in favor of ARESEP, and electricity rates were lowered as of Sept. 10.

–Adam Williams

 

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