Costa Rica: Declaratoria de competencia efectiva en mercados de telefonía e internet móvil por parte de la Sutel: ¿Qué es y qué implica?

Last Updated: 18 April 2018
Article by Marco Ureña

El pasado 18 de septiembre de 2017, la Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones ("Sutel") aprobó la resolución RCS-248-2017 mediante la cual declaró en competencia efectiva los servicios de telefonía móvil y transferencia de datos (internet) a través de redes móviles. Esta declaratoria implica que, en adelante, los operadores de estos servicios podrán definir libremente los precios que cobren al usuario. Antes de esta declaratoria, los cargos que pagaban los usuarios se consideraban tarifas por cuanto estaban sujetos a un procedimiento y metodología de aprobación, con montos mínimos y máximos, definidos por la Sutel.

El fundamento normativo de esta declaratoria se encuentra en el artículo 50 de la Ley General de Telecomunicaciones ("LGT") que establece que, inicialmente, las tarifas de los servicios de telecomunicaciones serían establecidas por la Sutel y que cuando ésta considerara que existen condiciones suficientes para asegurar competencia efectiva, podrá eliminar las tarifas mínimas y máximas y dejar que sean los operadores los que definan los precios. La misma ley deja abierta la posibilidad que Sutel regrese a regular las tarifas de estos servicios si ésta determina que las condiciones de competencia efectiva dejan de darse. El cambio recién aprobado por la Sutel implica el paso de una regulación ex ante a una regulación ex post de estos servicios de telecomunicaciones y de una fijación de tarifas determinadas por Sutel a precios definidos por los operadores. La regulación ex post implica que, aunque la Sutel no defina las tarifas, todavía mantiene su vigilancia del mercado para evitar las prácticas monopolísticas.

¿Competencia efectiva?

Según el artículo 6 inciso 7 de la LGT, la competencia efectiva es una circunstancia en la que ningún operador o grupo de éstos tiene un poder sustancial de mercado. Es decir, que ninguno puede fijar los precios o las condiciones de mercado unilateralmente, restringiendo el funcionamiento eficiente del mercado en perjuicio de los usuarios. En el Por Tanto 13 de la resolución RCS-248-2017, Sutel declara que no existe ningún operador o grupo de ellos que tenga poder sustancial en el mercado del servicio minorista de telecomunicaciones móviles.

Los dos operadores móviles que entraron al mercado a partir de la apertura (la empresa española Telefónica con su marca Movistar y la empresa mexicana América Móvil con su marca Claro) han manifestado su conformidad con la resolución RCS-248-2017 de la Sutel, así como otros actores importantes del mercado como lo es la Cámara de Infocomunicación y Tecnología (Infocom). La eliminación del régimen tarifario les permitirá a los operadores realizar una mayor segmentación del mercado, es decir, crear y vender paquetes que se puedan adecuar mejor a las diferentes necesidades de sus clientes. No es claro que se pueda dar una rebaja en los precios de telefonía que, en todo caso, es un mercado que seguirá siendo desplazado por aplicaciones gratuitas que permite la comunicación de voz e incluso videollamadas, pero sí debería darse un aumento de velocidades y rebajas de los precios en el mercado de acceso a internet.

A pesar de eso, la Defensoría de los Habitantes ha mostrado su oposición a la decisión de Sutel. Entre otras razones, la argumenta que nuestro mercado de telecomunicaciones móviles todavía se encuentra en un estado de oligopolio, es decir, una condición de mercado en la que los bienes o servicios son suministrados por un número limitado de proveedores. En realidad, los servicios de telecomunicaciones móviles suelen ser provistos por pocos oferentes, debido a dos razones principales: i) Se requiere uso del espectro radioeléctrico el cual es un recurso escaso, y ii) La inversión requerida para el despliegue de una red de servicios móviles es cuantiosa. No es de extrañar que la Defensoría de los Habitantes ha mencionado también que en este mercado existen grandes barreras de entrada al mercado. Recordemos que, en el caso costarricense, según estadísticas de Sutel a diciembre de 2016, tres operadores minoristas (Telefónica, Claro y el ICE) acumulan 98,7% del mercado de líneas prepago y postpago. 

¿Quién puede cometer prácticas monopolísticas?

Otro aspecto que merece nuestro análisis, a raíz de la resolución RCS-248-2017 de la Sutel, son las condiciones para la comisión de prácticas monopolísticas absolutas o relativas. Recordemos primero que la LGT contiene normativa relativa al régimen sectorial de competencia, resultando de aplicación supletoria lo establecido en el capítulo III de la Ley 7472. Como se sabe, las prácticas monopolísticas absolutas son acuerdos horizontales, es decir, acuerdos entre competidores actuales o potenciales, con el fin o efecto de limitar la competencia. Por otro lado, las prácticas monopolísticas relativas son acuerdos verticales, es decir, acuerdos entre agentes de mercado que no son competidores, con el fin o efecto de limitar la competencia. La resolución RCS-248-2017 de la Sutel no parece cambiar las reglas del juego de las prácticas monopolísticas absolutas por cuanto los acuerdos horizontales son ilegales per se, es decir, no requieren la comprobación de su ilegalidad.

El tema se complica con respecto a las prácticas monopolísticas relativas las cuales no son ilegales per se, sino que requieren un análisis caso por caso para comprobar su ilegalidad. Al respecto, el artículo 54 de la LGT establece que estas prácticas "serán prohibidas u estarán sujetas a la comprobación de los supuestos establecidos en los artículos 13, 14 y 15 de la Ley Nº 7472". El lenguaje usado resulta ciertamente confuso, en especial, porque, como se indicó, los acuerdos verticales no son siempre ilegales, de hecho, muchos son beneficiosos para el funcionamiento del mercado. Además, el uso de la preposición "u", cuando la siguiente palabra no inicia con la letra "o" aumenta la confusión. No se trata de que los acuerdos verticales estén prohibidos o estén sujetos a la comprobación; en realidad, estas prácticas siempre están sujetas al análisis de los criterios establecidos en la Ley 7472.

Ahora bien, el artículo 13 de la Ley 7472 establece que para que los acuerdos verticales se consideren violatorios de esa ley, debe comprobarse que: i) el presunto responsable tiene un poder sustancial sobre el mercado relevante, y ii) se realicen respecto de los bienes o servicios correspondientes o relacionados con el mercado relevante de que se trate. Debido a que el Por Tanto 13 de la resolución RCS-248-2017 declara que no existe ningún operador o grupo de ellos que tenga poder sustancial en el mercado del servicio minorista de telecomunicaciones móviles, vale la pena cuestionarse si, en adelante, los operadores de telefonía e internet móvil podrán ser acusados y sancionados por prácticas monopolísticas relativas, en especial, por el análisis casuístico de estas prácticas. Le corresponderá a la Sutel, con el criterio técnico de la Comisión para Promover la Competencia (Coprocom) en virtud del artículo 55 de la LGT, definir este interesantísimo aspecto de nuestro mercado de telecomunicaciones.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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