Leap Card services could be available from fewer newsagents and convenience stores from March onwards, the shops' representative organisation has warned, because of a row over a new contract governing their sale.
The Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association (CSNA) said the terms of the new contract are such that its members will be left significantly out of pocket if they sign up to act as agents.
Leap cards are prepaid travel cards that enable passengers to pay for fares on public transport across the country, including buses, trains, DARTs and on the Luas.
The system is ultimately controlled by the National Transport Authority (NTA).
Last July, three months after the main Leap Card contract was awarded to Cubic Transportation Services, An Post was awarded a subcontract to make Leap card services available in 920 post offices and 1,600 PostPoint outlets nationwide.
An Post is currently approaching retailers to ask them to sign up to become Postpoint agents, so that they can sell the cards, offer top ups and provide other PostPoint services.
The CSNA has claimed that under the previous retail service provider, Payzone, its members were receiving around 2.7% of the retail value of Leap Card related services they sold, equivalent to around 36-38 cent per transaction.
But under the new five-year contract on offer from An Post, this would change to a flat fee of 24 cent per transaction, it said.
This would lead to a drop in income for some newsagents and convenience store operators of up to €20,000 per annum, Vincent Jennings, the CSNA chief executive claimed.
The CSNA also added that those who sign up to offer the services will have to pay a refundable deposit of €500 to cover the installation of the new Postpoint terminal.
The number of terminals per site will also be limited to one, while till rolls will have to be paid for by the newsagent, it said.
As a result, the CSNA said many of its members are refusing to sign the contract, although An Post has challenged that suggestion.
"An Post are currently in the process of approaching retailers with a view to signing them up to become Postpoint agents and sell Leap cards and top ups as well as other Postpoint services," the postal operator said in a statement.
"To date the company has signed up some 400 new retailers to the service," it said.
"Leap will be available in Post offices and Postpoint outlets from March," it added.
The NTA said it understands the concerns raised by the CSNA.
It said that late last year it received a letter from the CSNA and it had provided a comprehensive response at that time.
"A significant component of the requirements to be delivered under the new agreement was that any new provider must be able to ensure that there is sufficient retail coverage to serve the main catchment areas of the Transport Operators and that these retailers are conveniently located to address the needs of the majority of our customers," it said.
"This was sufficiently addressed in the winning bidder's response," it added.
The NTA also said it had no direct contractual relationship with either retail services provider or any individual retailer.
But the CSNA said the NTA should have ensured in its main contract with the main tender winner that retailers currently selling Leap Card services should be allowed to retain their existing terms and conditions.