Camelot is hoping to make the National Lottery Commission (NLC) change its mind about allowing bill payments and phone top-ups through National Lottery terminals by putting forward a range of remedies that would prevent the company from breaching competition law.
Last month the NLC said it was “minded to” prevent Camelot from moving into the ancillary services market because of legal concerns. However, Camelot has come back to the Commission with a new set of undertakings, including creating separate accounts for the lottery and services operations, offering the regulator full transparency to monitor the company, and appointing a compliance officer whose sole function would be to police competition law and act on any complaints.
In addition, Camelot has said it would agree to be bound by any “fair trading condition” that the Commission would impose on it.
The NLC has agreed to consult on the new proposals, and so has extended the deadline for responses to its initial decision until September 17.
A Camelot spokesman added: “We are pleased that the NLC has consulted on our remedies and we remain confident that the NLC’s approval of our proposals would not breach either European Union or competition law. Our commercial services proposals are all about boosting competition, while making sure we give millions more to the good causes. We hope this commitment will now enable Camelot’s proposals to be approved, benefiting the good causes, consumers and retailers.”
In its submission to the NLC’s original consultation, PayPoint argued that Camelot’s proposal would put the UK at risk of breaching the Lisbon Treaty regarding European competition law.
PayPoint’s head of corporate affairs Peter Brooker was unimpressed by Camelot’s latest attempt.
“The NLC’s conclusions, supported by independent legal advice, were that Camelot’s proposals posed a significant risk of breaching competition law and that it would be expensive and complex to investigate this further,” he said.
“The NLC pointed out that the benefits to good causes from the proposals were negligible relative to those raised by the National Lottery, and not worth the effort given the many competition and other risks that they raise. We believe that Camelot’s proposals would not raise any money for good causes for years until the new commercial services business became profitable.
“Camelot’s proposal is based on unfair cross-subsidies and leveraging its position as a state-protected monopoly. Camelot also suggests appointing an internal ‘compliance officer’ to keep it in line – a hardly convincing concession when it is the only party in denial about the anti-competitive nature of its proposals.”
Brooker added: “Camelot’s final ‘remedy’, a competition law condition within the National Lottery licence is meaningless as it is already obliged to comply with competition law, and restating the obligation in its licence doesn’t go any way to solving the problem that Camelot’s proposal breaches that obligation.”