PayPoint bosses told angry retailers at the NFRN annual conference they would work with all independent agents to improve the profitability of their service.

The pledge was made by marketing director Steve O’Neill during a two-hour session at the event in Torquay during which the bill payment and services company faced a barrage of criticism from delegates.

Mr O’Neill and head of UK retail management Darren Tredgett also gave firm commitments that any member who wishes to quit the network will be allowed to do so without penalty, and that in cases where a termination notice has been issued to a member the matter will be referred to the NFRN before the terminal is removed.

Mr O’Neill described independent retailers as “the bedrock” of the company’s network and said he was concerned that the impression had been given that PayPoint was not really worried about them.

The decision to lower caps on some commission payments had not been taken lightly, but PayPoint could no longer bear all the cost of the reduced margins demanded by its clients, Mr O’Neill said.

But Republic of Ireland delegate Joe Sweeney said it was “disgusting” that independent retailers who had helped to build up PayPoint’s business were now being “trampled all over”. PayPoint staff would not work for nothing, and nor could retailers afford to, he added.

“You may be listening to us, but you are not hearing us,” Mr Sweeney said.

You may be listening to us, but you are not hearing us

Complaints voiced by other delegates included inadequate margins, the unavailability of the call centre outside office hours, the company’s failure to address the high cost of banking PayPoint cash and the timing of new five-year contracts shortly before cutting commission.

Outgoing NFRN national trustee Jim Maitland contrasted the estimated £200 average annual operating profit of a PayPoint agent with the estimated £1,423 per outlet earned by PayPoint, but Mr O’Neill argued that the two figures were not comparable as they included income from overseas operations.