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Ecuador Orders Porta Celular to Repay $27 Million to Customers

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QUITO (Dow Jones) Ecuador's Telecommunication Superintendency, or Suptel, ordered the local unit of Mexican telecommunications company America Movil to pay $27 million it overcharged its clients in 1999.

Suptel said in a statement Wednesday that it would take legal action if the company doesn't pay.

Juan Cordova, an official from Suptel, told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview that if America Movil's local unit, Porta Celular, "doesn't pay by Monday, the superintendency could seize goods by this amount."

Porta Celular was accused in June 2005 of having overcharged some 1.8 million subscribers of its prepaid service, charging them for calls from the moment they pressed the "send" button until the call ended, which resulted in an extra 10 to 20 seconds on average for each call.

Daniel Bernal, the company's legal counsel, told Dow Jones Newswires that the company "doesn't understand the decision. Between October 2005 and October 2007, we had compensated with free minutes to all of our clients. The cost of this compensation for the company was around $200 million," he said.

"We will take legal actions against this illegal Suptel decision," Bernal said.

According to the most-recent official data, Ecuador has around 9.81 million mobile phone service clients. Porta leads the market with 6.75 million, followed by Telefonica SA (TEF) unit Movistar, with 2.63 million, and locally owned Alegro PCS with 428,868 clients.

-By Mercedes Alvaro, Dow Jones Newswires; 5939-9728-653; mercedes.alvaro@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

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Tags: telefonica  america movil  porta  Ecuador