At the NFRN’s annual conference last month, Camelot came under-fire for a myriad of service issues.

Delegates queued to question head of retail James Pearson on the company’s monthly charges, allocation of terminals, commission and helpline charges. But the Camelot saga didn’t end at conference. RN has had several calls since from retailers, and a former company employee, outlining further problems and concerns.

Neil Mitchell, Nottinghamshire

We have had a scratchcard-only terminal for 18 months and in January were one of the first retailers to have it upgraded to include the National Lottery.

I first complained about scratchcard availability, or lack of it, last summer. Since October, they have only been made available when we request them. We ran out of Christmas scratchcards in late November and by the time we received more we had missed all of December’s Christmas sales. This trend has continued this year and we have now been told we don’t sell enough to generate a minimum order.

A couple of things have improved, though. The nightmare silver log-on button that can sometimes take up to 20 hits before it gives you access to the appropriate page seems to have been fixed in the past week. We also seem to be having far fewer system crashes.

We were reluctant to report these issues as I believe from reading the trade press that some retailers have been left with no functioning terminal at all, and I didn’t want to spend five minutes of each call listening to recorded messages at my expense.

A former sales rep

I was a retail sales executive and my role was to visit retailers and develop business plans for them. There were 105 of us, and we’d visit our retail estate four times a year to look at how we could improve sales and resolve any problems, for example with terminals.

But 40% of us have been made redundant and the plan is for the 60 reps who remain to visit retailers just once a year. Multiples like Asda will still get a visit four times a year. We were shocked by this change. We’d just inherited 12,000 new retailers and were expecting our workload to go up, not down.

The new compact lottery terminal is where they are having all the problems. There were problems with the silver button, which wouldn’t work, and there were connectivity problems too. We fed this back to management constantly.

Previously, we’d be able to resolve those problems when we visited. But because the website has only just been launched, the only way retailers were able to get any tactical support during the previous six months was through a chargeable phoneline.

I believe James Pearson’s strategy is just about cost-cutting. I don’t think Camelot will give retailers more support.

Camelot has been very tight-lipped about its future, but I predict it’s all going be chargeable and that there will be a change of strategy. I think the way they’re treating independent retailers is disgraceful.

A CAMELOT SPOKESMAN SAYS:

There are no widespread issues with direct debits, stock allocation or equipment. We have 47,000 retailers, so it’s important to look at this handful of complaints on that scale. However, we’d like the opportunity to help these retailers, to resolve any outstanding problems and provide them with the necessary ongoing support. With their contact details, we can pass on the details to the retail team who will get in touch with each of them.

We are consulting with a number of employees in the team about potential changes. However, no final decisions have yet been made and we therefore cannot make any further comment until we have fully consulted with the employees concerned.