Lottery company refused extra services

National Lottery group Camelot's hopes of offering extra services were dashed today after regulators refused the move due to "serious" competition concerns.

Camelot had been fighting to overturn a provisional decision by the National Lottery Commission (NLC) last July to block proposals to provide mobile phone top-ups and electronic bill payments.

But the NLC said that, following legal advice, it believed Camelot's plans would breach European competition law.

Camelot described the decision as "bewildering" and said it was already commonplace across Europe for lottery operators to offer these services.

Camelot claimed it had received conflicting legal advice and would now consider its options.

But it signalled plans to challenge the NLC decision, saying it was "confident that it will enter the commercial services business in due course".

It estimates the proposals would have generated £100,000 a week extra for good causes - having pledged 82.5% of profits made by the service.

Paul Charmatz, managing director of commercial services for Camelot, said: "This is a bewildering decision and without precedent in European Union history when you consider that all over Europe other lottery operators offer these services to support their retailers."

Camelot had sought to appease NLC concerns with a raft of measures, such as publishing separate accounts for the new business and employing a competition law officer to police the service.

But the NLC said its legal advice suggested Camelot would effectively be given an unfair advantage through its lottery monopoly in the UK.

Mark Harris, chief executive of the NLC, said: "The Commission is here to protect the long-term propriety of the National Lottery and the £1.6 billion it raises annually for good causes.

"We cannot, as a public body, consent to the proposal that is before us when doing so may place us in breach of European competition law. We have considered whether the risks involved can reasonably be mitigated but have concluded, based on the advice we have received, that they cannot."

Camelot's plans to offer services through its Lottery terminals were backed by retail groups, such as the National Federation of Subpostmasters and the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, which supported the prospect of a new entrant to a market they feel needs more competition to improve terms and services currently offered.

George Thomson, general secretary of the National Federation of Subpostmasters (NFSP), said: "This is a sad day for the bill payment sector and for subpostmasters. We have said previously that bill payment and mobile top-ups remain a hugely important source of revenue for post offices.

"The NFSP has been working closely with Camelot and Post Office, and had this been approved, the result would have been highly beneficial to our treasured national network of post offices.

"The NLC's ruling has further entrenched the unfair and uncompetitive practices that prevail in the bill payment sector."

Parminder Singh, national president of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents added: "We remain of the view that customers are best-served by having available as wide a range of choice as possible as to where and how they pay their bills and will continue to work to achieve this end."

But rival local payment group PayPoint, which has strongly opposed Camelot's plans, welcomed today's news.

Dominic Taylor, chief executive of PayPoint, said: "It would be entirely wrong for Camelot to be allowed to exploit its position as Lottery monopolist and spread its resources to offer unrelated commercial services.

"We are pleased that the National Lottery Commission has accepted the compelling arguments that the proposal was undesirable and contrary to the public interest."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Guru Careers: In-House / Internal Recruiter

£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea