February 1, 2012 / 12:40 AM / in 6 years

Mexico's Slim hits back at overcharging claim

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican businessman Carlos Slim disputed on Tuesday an OECD report that Mexicans have been overpaying billions of dollars per year for telephone and Internet services.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said in a report on Monday that Mexicans were overcharged $13.4 billion a year between 2005 and 2009 for fixed-phone, mobile and broadband services, a market dominated by Slim companies.

In total, overcharging cost the Mexican economy $25.8 billion a year over the period, the international economic and social organization estimated.

At a rare news conference, Slim said he did not know how the OECD had reached the “incorrect” figure, adding it was more than the annual sales of his Telmex fixed-line telephone company.

Telmex ended 2010 with revenues of 113.6 billion pesos, or $9.2 billion. The company was absorbed last year by Slim’s cash cow, America Movil, the biggest provider of cell phones in Latin America.

Citing a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report from December, Slim said Mexico’s $0.04 revenue-per-minute was lower than in Latin American peers Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru.

“In fixed lines, of course there is competition,” he said, pointing to cable TV companies that also provide phone services and denying Telmex was a monopolistic company.

“This is another lie.”

Slim had a rough year in 2011, as his phone companies came under tighter scrutiny from regulators.

Competition agency Cofeco slapped America Movil with a record $1 billion fine in April, arguing the company was charging high prices to competitors to let them use its network. But a Supreme Court decision in the last quarter of 2011 may help Slim avoid the fine.

Reporting by Elinor Comlay; editing by Gary Hill and Andre Grenon

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