A few retailers got in touch to complain about Camelot’s move to charge them for phone calls. Iain Lyall (Glan Conway General Stores) wrote: “Included in the recent box of new stationery and POS for the additional lottery numbers was the notification of new telephone numbers to contact the National Lottery.

“Every one of these was an 0844 number which cannot be included in any of our call packages. Will you please remind retailers, who are the backbone of the National Lottery operation, that every call to the National Lottery will now cost in the region of 10p connection charge plus 7p per minute.

“Perhaps the National Lottery would care to estimate how many extra millions of pounds this increase to our overheads is likely raise in a year?”

Roy Gudka (The Toy Box, London) emailed: “I will not call them unless I am very desperate.” Then he got back in touch to say that Camelot had told him that, although he would be charged for phone calls, email was free.

I put this to Iain and he said that Camelot doesn’t readily provide an email address. “Even if you did have email addresses, you would generally only use that for non-urgent communications. Most of the time it would be that something was not processing, or the terminal had frozen, or something fairly urgent where you needed to speak to someone with a customer present. In line with introducing a semi-premium number you now have to listen to about three levels of options before you actually get to talk to someone, which adds about two minutes to every call.

“There are no two ways of looking at it – introducing 0844 numbers for all calls from retailers is their way of collecting millions of pounds from retailers who at times have no choice but to phone them.

“Assuming 50,000 UK lottery terminals with just three calls per week at 10p connection charge, two minutes getting past options and just three minutes talking to a real person (45p per call) – that equates to £3.5m per year (+VAT).”

Raju Patel, from Newsbit in Watford, also had a moan. “You have to go through a procedure and you’re busy and you push the wrong button and then you have to start again. It’s a disgrace they are making money on it.”

Camelot says it is not charging a premium rate for the new Retailer Hotline number, but a nominal one.

A spokeswoman says: “We have a growing base of retailers who want to engage with us in different and more convenient ways – in particular, we recognise that many retailers work outside normal office hours. So, although we are introducing a nominal charge for the Retailer Hotline, we are also heavily investing in digital improvements for retailers – including a new retailer website and Interactive Voice Response  system. These enhancements will give National Lottery retailers more control, providing them with the flexibility to manage their accounts anytime, anywhere. We believe the new website in particular will make it much easier for retailers to self-serve – including accessing sales history, checking Scratchcard inventory, and carrying out terminal troubleshooting – which will significantly reduce the need for them to contact us by telephone. However, if retailers do still need to contact us by phone, the new IVR will also cut down on call times.”