E-commerce continues to increase in Costa Rica, a country that has led the region in telecommunications network development and information technology initiatives. There is great potential for Costa Rica to increase its use of the internet and e-commerce as well as the 4G structure. The country already enjoys over 150 percent cell-phone penetration, a high level of educational attainment (99 percent literacy rate), and a tradition of political stability.
E-commerce has excellent potential in Costa Rica. “Black Friday” in Costa Rica began in 2010. Thousands of buyers still take advantage of the day and purchase online from virtual stores in the United States. E-commerce has spurred the creation of companies where consumers can purchase merchandise from U.S. retailers and transport it to the local market. Delivery times may vary depending on the merchandise and all products imported are subject to local import duties and the local custom regulations on labeling and registration if applicable. E-commerce within the country is an unexploited opportunity since customers still prefer to purchase directly at retail locations.
A trend in e-purchases is buying from wish.com, a Chinese website offering low prices and sent directly to Costa Rican households. The Costa Rican Postal Service (Correos de Costa Rica) has opened new office to deal with a backlog of deliveries due to the overwhelming number of orders received from Asia.
Amazon started during 2018 shipping directly to Costa Rica, therefore many Costa Ricans are by-passing the Miami-based PO Box services, saving some money and time.
The country passed legislation paving the way for the use digital signatures and certificates. More companies are obtaining digital signatures; they are still not yet commonly used.
The CAFTA-related Intellectual Property Rights law might improve enforcement of Internet-related works. Recent studies have indicated that Internet access still lags in rural areas. The local market is still dominated by ICE (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad: the government-owned electricity and telecommunications company) as the main Internet service provider (ISP). This is a contrast to the relatively open ISP market in the rest of the region. Under CAFTA, Internet service has been opened to competition, but internet speeds are still very low, ranking 98 of 128 monitored countries.
At the present time, the following is a list of companies’ offering ISP service:
- Almafamat de Costa Rica S.A.
- Anditel International AI, S.A.
- Blue Sat Servicios Administrados de Telecomunicaciones S.A.
- Cable Arenal del Lago S.A.
- Cable Caribe S.A.
- Cable Visión de Costa Rica CVCR, S.A.
- Cable Zarcero S.A (Mega Cable)
- Call My Way S.A.
- Claro Costa Rica CR
- Cooperativa de Electrificación Rural de Guanacaste R.L. (COOPEGUANACASTE) Cooperativa de Electrificación Rural de San Carlos R.L. (Coopelesca R.L.)
- Cooperativa de Electrificación Rural Los Santos R.L (COOPESANTOS R.L)
- E-Diay S.A.
- Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia (ESPH)
- GT Guatuso Trust INC. S.A.
- IBW Comunicaciones S.A. (JAPI)
- Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad
- Liberty Latin America (Cabletica)
- Millicom Cable Costa Rica, S.A. (TIGO)
- Netsys C.R. S.A.
- OBCR Orange Business Costa Rica S.A.
- Radiográfica Costarricense S.A.
- Red Punto Com Technologies S.A.
- Redes Inalámbricas de C.R. (REICO)
- San Carlos Wireless S.A.
- Telecable Económico T.V.E. S.A.
- Telefónica de Costa Rica TC S.A.
- Xarxes Networking S.R.L.
Access to Internet was influenced by use of mobile devices. According to the Costa Rica’s Superintendence of Telecommunications (Sutel), internet penetration reached 150 percent by the end of 2020.
According to the Sutel there are estimated 474,000 subscriptions of (land) Internet services in Costa Rica, representing only about 10.4 percent of the total population. The wireless fixed internet service experienced a 22 percent decrease between 2014 and 2015 (latest figures available).
During 2019, two major events occurred; Liberty Latin America bought Cabletica and increased the internet speeds creating real competition with the other ISP’s. The cost today of a 35 Mbps connection is roughly US$40 per month in Costa Rica as an average. The second interesting event is related to the government using the Telecom social funds to give free internet in many parks all over Costa Rica.
During 2021, SUTEL and other local authorities approved U.S.-based Liberty Latin America’s acquisition of Movistar wireless phone operation in Costa Rica, becoming the first U.S. carrier in the market that also offers TV cable and internet services.
The private sector continues to increase its use of e-commerce in Costa Rica. Local companies commonly have the capability to offer services via the Internet in addition to the usual sales channels. The Costa Rican public and private banks offer their clients a variety of services through the internet. There are several websites specializing in marketing products and services via the internet that have emerged. As well as consumer trading sites, including Mercado Libre, a subsidiary of eBay, Clasificados, Rematico.com, Craig’s List Costa Rica and Locompreaqui.com. The Costa Rican government invested in the new system SICOP (former Mer-Link), an e-bidding website, developed by the South Korean Government now part of another system. The Apple Store is operating in Costa Rica, as well as the video streaming services like Netflix on-demand video store, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, HBO Max and others.
Due to the pandemic, local news articles estimate (based on local trade associations) that online sales channel for retail sector grew from 0.3 percent in 2019 to 41 percent in 2020.
eCommerce Web Resources
- Banco Nacional
- CR Autos
- Craigslist Costa Rica
- ICT (Costa Rica Tourism Institute)
- Mercado Libre (eBay)
- Scotiabank Costa Rica
- Facebook Marketplace
- Uber Eats
- Go Pato