Independent retailers will no longer be able to call the National Lottery retail hotline for free, after operator Camelot changed it to an 0844 number.

The calls to the hotline will now cost 7p per minute, plus network charges.

“As a result of this charge, retailers will be paying more to use it than they earn in commission from selling lottery tickets and scratchcards. This move is unwarranted and unfair,” said National Federation of Retail Newsagents chief executive Paul Baxter. “It is our firm belief that this hotline should be free as it exists for retailers to report service-related issues. They should not be charged for doing this.”

The NFRN said no notice was given of the change, which came into force on 8 October, but this has been disputed by Camelot, which said it sent a formal letter to retailers during the week beginning 28 September.

Camelot also said the NFRN’s claim that costs would outweigh commission was incorrect. “Last year, established independent retailers made, on average, £6,500 in retailer commission from National Lottery products. So, to say that retailers will be paying more to use the Retailer Hotline than they earn in commission from selling National Lottery tickets and Scratchcards is clearly untrue,” said a Camelot spokeswoman.

She added the charge had been introduced as a result of a number of digital improvements to its service, including a new website and an interactive voice response system. “These enhancements will give National Lottery retailers more control, providing them with the flexibility to manage their accounts anytime, anywhere,” she said.

“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.”

Encouraged by the NFRN, some independent retailers opposed to the charge have also taken to social media using the hashtag #ChargeALot to express their disappointment .