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Prohibition to charge late fees over telecommunications services in Puerto Rico

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On March 28, 2014, Senator Miguel Pereira presented to the Senate of Puerto Rico the Legislative Bill No. 1019, to add a new subsection (c) to Section III-5 of Act 213-1996, as amended, known as the "Telecommunications Act of 1996 Puerto Rico" for the purpose of prohibiting telecommunications companies, cable and DBS satellite, charge interest, fees or any other penalty for late payment of telecommunication services which are billed in advance and which have not been provided; and for other purposes. P. of S. 1019. March 28, 2014.

According to the explanatory statement of the bill, in recent years there has been a proliferation of the use of telecommunications services such as mobile phones, internet and cable television programming, among others. This has led to a steady growth of companies engaged in providing such services. Statistics from the Telecommunications Regulatory Board as of December 2013 revealed that in Puerto Rico were 3,085,146 active mobile phone lines and 268.093 subscribers of cable television. Telecommunication and cable television companies have developed various billing systems for its customers. Among these systems is the advanced billing, where the customer pays in advance for the service to be consumed in the next cycle; generally one month. Although the service is billed in advance, it is common for telecommunication and cable television companies to charge to its customers, interests, surcharges or other penalties for services not provided when customers make ​​a late payment.

The bill stated that allowing such practice undermines the best interests of Puerto Rican consumers, since they are being penalized for paying late an advance service bill, which has not been provided, therefore not already consumed.

Notwithstanding, telecommunications, cable television, and DBS satellite companies may impose interest, surcharges or any other reasonable penalty once billed services have already been provided and the bill has become due.

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