San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica man beats Citibank in phone harassment suit

One thing that expatriates do not miss in Costa Rica is those pesky telephone promotion campaigns. Apparently, they won’t be bothered by them anytime soon, due to a decision Tuesday by a court in San José.

The court found for complainant Sebastian Elizondo against Citibank’s Citi Tarjetas phone campaign promoting the bank’s credit cards. Based on the General Law of Communications, a judge ruled that the calls interrupted Elizondo’s work, rest and family reunions.

This law does not forbid phone solicitations, unless they are insistent and exaggerated. Elizondo thought they were and went to court in October 2009 to stop them. The bank is tight-lipped about the court’s resolution but may appeal it.

Elizondo’s lawyer, Alberto Castillo, said the bank called his client no fewer than 20 times per month offering him credit cards and other services. Fed up, the lawyer said, his client then recorded the calls after advising his caller that he would do so.

The recordings were offered into evidence against the bank. Elizondo originally asked for ₡6 million ($11,800) in damages, but the judge awarded only 1 million ($2,000). As is customary, if the verdict survives appeal, the defendant will be liable for the plaintiff’s court costs.

Castillo commented to the daily La Nación: “In Costa Rica, we consumers complain about this harassment, but no one files a formal accusation. One brave guy was moved [to act] and now the pathway is open.”

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