In search of that elusive personaría juridica

The news was not particularly welcome. An employee left a company cell phone on a bus. The time was mid-July.

That meant buying a new, cheap cell and spending at least two hours at the phone company office getting a replacement chip and activating the new purchase.

Would that be true! Instead, the situation became what Costa Ricans call a calvario,named after the sufferings of Jesus on the way to the cross.

To prove ownership of the company and the legal right to act on its behalf requires something called a personaría juridica, a document issued by the Registro Nacional that lists the company officers and their powers.

Thanks to the handy online service provided by the Registro, obtaining such a document was easy and cost less than 3,000 colons, some $6. The reference was an article on how to use the system written by Garland Baker May 2.

There has been a change at the downtown office of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. Perhaps to be more competitive in the face of competition, the state phone company has added more attendants, so a 20-minute wait is all that was needed to present the news of the lost cell phone to a clerk and also hand over the personaría juridica.

Drats! It seems that the lost telephone was the asset of an otherwise inactive company and not the company that owns A.M. Costa Rica and all the other telephones. The clerk smiled. We left.

Back to the digital service of the Registro Nacional to get the personaría juridica for the correct company that we’ll call LittleKnown S.A. The company’s only asset was the cell telephone purchased back in the days when the phone company was rationing lines one to a company. It seemed a good idea then to buy an additional phone in the name of LittleKnown.

Alas, the computer spewed out the new personaría juridica, but the identification numbers for the officers were several years old and incorrect because of changes in immigration status.

Shucks, we thought we changed all that in March. In fact, we did. A document drafted by a lawyer informed the Registro Nacional of changes in the officers’ cédula numbers, the company address and several other minor details. It would seem wise for the Registro to have a form for individuals to fill out to make minor changes in information like addresses. But in Costa Rica that is the job for a lawyer and a custom-drafted document.

So a messenger was dispatched to the Registro to point out that clerks there had failed to make a change. After all, we had the lawyer’s document approved and returned by Registro workers.

No way, said Registro workers. Even though all the required information was in the lawyer’s document, it was not in the correct form because
they just changed the correct form. The messenger returned empty handed.

Another lawyer stepped up to bat. The Registro frequently will pay much more attention to a lawyer than a mere messenger or, even worse, a civilian.

The Registro agreed to make the changes.

Another 3,000 colons spent online proved that the incorrect numbers remained in the company file.

A second, hotter visit by the lawyer.

That was then, this is now, said the Registro clerks. The form is incorrect. We can’t change it. Go fish.

By this time Lawyer No. 2 was even hotter, but then he agreed to draft the document in the way the Registro demanded. He did and presented the document seeking the small changes.

A week later, the Registro returned the document to Lawyer No. 2 signifying that it had made the changes.

So it was time for another personaría juridica from the Registro Digital.

But wait! The Registro, faced with a Sala IV appeal over the prices its charges on the digital Web site, had frozen the system that dispensed online documents.

Not to worry. Another messenger appeared personally at the Registro and purchased the personaría juridica with the changed numbers.

But, whoops, they were not changed.

Lawyer No. 2 heads back to the Registro even hotter.

Eventually a new personaría juridica, accurate in all aspects, appears for LittleKnown S.A.

So to change a couple of cédula numbers in a company’s records required two months, two lawyers, $200 and assorted fees and taxi fares.

What ever happened to those laws that were supposed to simplify doing business here and cut down on paperwork?

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