(QCOSTARICA) The state company Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) has been fined ¢2.157 billion colones (US$4 million dollars) for “anti-competitive and monopolistic” practices between 2011 and 2012.

The fine was levied by the board of Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones (Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones – SUTEL), the government regulating agency on telecommunications.

In a statement, the SUTEL said that the “monopolistic” practices were related to the “Chip Extremo” in its prepaid cellular service, that ran for two years. The “anti-competitive” is related to the four months: November and December 2011 and October and November 2012.

The decision followed a complaint filed in 2011 by Telefónica de Costa Rica, the operator of the Movistar brand in the country.

Ivannia Morales, SUTEL spokesperson, explained that if the competitors had wanted to match the ICE promotion they would have suffered losses and maybe even gone out of business.

The promotion is known as “margin squeeze”, added Morales.

The penalty amounts ot 0.58% of ICE’s gross income from mobile services during the last fiscal period, as established by the Telecommunications Act (Ley General de Telecomunicaciones).

The fine will be transferred to the National Telecommunications Fund (Fondo Nacional de Telecomunicaciones  – FONATEL).

However, ICE has three working days to appeal the sanction. In a press release Thursday, the Institution said it rejected the SUTEL resolution and that ICE “has never engaged in anticompetitive practices”.

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