MEXICAN corporate oligarchs have never had much to fear from the country’s competition authorities. Until recently, investigators politely had to give notice the day before raiding premises. Offenders stalled for years in court before coughing up their fines. Even then, the maximum penalty for first-time violators of competition rules was 85m pesos ($7.3m)—“not even peanuts, but plankton,” one prosecutor admits. And so Mexico’s corporate whales grew fatter.
But last month the Federal Competition Commission hit the country’s biggest whale with a fine of 11.99 billion pesos ($1 billion), the heaviest penalty ever. It claimed that Telcel, which has 70% of Mexico’s mobile-phone market and is controlled by Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, had abused its dominant position by charging competing networks sky-high connection fees. Telcel, whose connection charges are 44% higher than the average in the mainly rich countries that are members of the OECD, will appeal.