Spar retailer Kevin Hunt has warned that Vodafone’s cut in retailers’ margin on top-ups could bring about an end to electronic bill payment in convenience stores like his.

Kevin has ended his boycott of Vodafone (C-Store, July 11), which drew support from more than 5,000 stores and involved six days of action during which the network’s products were removed from sale. He gave his support to individual retailers who wished to continue the protest, but warned that they may risk a breach of any direct contractual agreement with their service provider.

On his website Kevin told supporters: “The reduction in margin will directly affect the profitability of my business and could threaten my ability to provide electronic bill payment through my stores.”

Many retailers claim they make no profit on bill payments via electronic terminals and the systems’ value would be compromised if other networks follow Vodafone’s lead and reduce top-up commissions. 

“In every respect my boycott was about protecting the future of small local stores and the communities we serve. I hope Vodafone understands why we feel so strongly about this rate reduction,” Kevin explained.

Kevin called a halt to the action because he felt he had a responsibility to customers who rely on the services he provides. “I am reluctant to inconvenience customers further as I value their business enormously,“ he said.

The majority of support for Kevin’s campaign came from fellow Spar retailers, with less response from independents and other symbol groups. Some who took part believe the boycott received limited support because competing retail groups were wary that they could be accused of staging joint action in breach of competition law. 

Kevin added: “I know from the many messages of support I have received that individual retailers want to continue their action. I wish them success.”