There is no monopoly in the Colombian cell phone market, said the richest man in the world on Friday.
Mexican entrepreneur, Carlos Slim, traveled to Colombia to defend the role of American Movil SAB in the Colombian phone market.
“Monopoly is one…When [there is] more than one…there is no monopoly,” Slim said at a press conference in Cartagena.
A bill introduced by Senator Jorge Robledo last week would ensure no one company could control more than 30% of the wireless market. The bill, which has bipartisan support, would force American Movil to break up or return previously purchased airwave licenses.
If the market-share cap proposal is approved, which Senate President Roy Barreras said is likely, America Movil would most likely drop its less profitable customers – clients in rural areas and poorer neighborhoods.
“In any industry, there will always be one that sells more than another. In our case, we started in Colombia in 1999 or 2000 [and] we had 46.7% of the market and the competitor (Bellsouth) had 53.3%…Whenever there are two shops, there will be one that sells more than the other,” said Slim.
America Movil currently controls close to 60% of the Colombian cell phone market, which according to Slim is a product of providing the best services at the best price not because of the significant assets the company has at its disposal to outbid the competition.
“In Colombia there are 47 million customers as of June this year. In that sense…there are 47 million people who make a decision and go [with the provider] that suits them,” explained Slim.
Slim’s competitors, namely Telefonica SA, which owns 26% of the market and Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Bogota said America Movil, which operates under the Claro brand, uses its market-cornering position to keep customers from switching providers.
“America Movil offers discounts to users for calling within Claro’s network, so it’s more expensive to phone customers of other networks. That makes Colombians more likely to choose Claro,” said ETB President Saul Kattan.
One year removed from praising Colombia’s open attitudes towards foreign investment, Slim’s telecommunications empire was slapped with a $6.6 million fine for charging unfair cancellation fees.
This new round of proposed regulations comes on the tails of $1 billion fine the Mexican anti-trust agency just dropped against America Movil which it accused of anticompetitive behavior. The fine was dropped after the Mexico-based company agreed to lower fees for customers calling people outside of the Claro network.