Proposed law would regulate country’s mail services

Correos de Costa Rica S.A., the national mail service, is seeking to create what amounts to a postal czar to oversee firms that deliver letters and small packages in the country.

The proposal has been languishing in the legislation since 2009, but the head of Correos and several government officials appeared Wednesday before the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Económicos to push the bill.

The measure would appear to levy another tax because private firms involved in the delivery business would have to pay a fee to what is being called postal regulator. Among those who appeared Wednesday was a representative of the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones in which agency the regulator would be located.

The regulating agency would have the duty of setting rules of access to the mail market, protecting the rights of users and setting the conditions for offering the service, according to the bill, No. 17.497.

The summary that explains the bill said that a systematic regulation is needed since private operators are not covered by the same rules that govern Correos de Costa Rica S.A. The proposed regulations would cover specifically individuals or firms, public or private and Costa Rican or foreign, that offer postal services directly or indirectly in the entire national territory.

To offer such services, the individual or firm must be authorized by the proposed postal regulator, said the bill. The regulator would maintain a list of services authorized for each entity. The amount each person or firm would pay each year for authorization is left open and would be established by regulations drawn up after the bill is passed by the Asamblea Legislativa.

The measure came to lawmakers with the support of the executive branch.

The authorization would be good for five years and could not be transferable, says the bill. The other mail services would have to offer universal coverage as does Correos, the bill says.

Firms would have six months after passage of the bill to obtain authorization.

The bill is necessary because Costa Rica promised the International Postal Union to do so in 1998, lawmakers were told Wednesday. Mail service is covered by international treaty.

A summary issued Wednesday by the Partido Liberación Nacional characterized the bill as one to protect consumers. There was no mention of an annual fee for doing business.

Correos has been hit hard by electronic messaging and appears to be trying to level the playing field by requiring private firms to provide the same services that it does. Some courier firms, for example, do not service the entire country and concentrate on areas of high population. Until now such firms did not pay a special tax, just ordinary business levies.

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