1p and 2p coins aren't legal tender?

17 May 2012

coinsWhat do you do if your financial adviser is a bit of an accountant? You have to pay him or you’ll get sued. Why not go to the bank and withdraw over £800 in 1p and 2p pieces?

Sounds a nice idea, and that is exactly what one Robert Fitzpatrick from Essex did. He owed his accountant £804, and turned up at his house with five boxes of 1p 2p and 5p coins, weighing over 25 and a half stone to settle his debt.

Unfortunately, it was the accountant who has been left with a smile on his face. 1p and 2p coins, according to the Royal Mint, are only legal tender for sums of up to 20p, and once you have collected 21 or more 1p pieces, your coins contravene the Coinage Act 1971 if used in a single transaction. Smarty pants accountant Philip Lawrence consequently sued Fitzpatrick for non-payment of a debt. And won. Mr Fitzpatrick has now been ordered to pay a total of £1,118.62 including interest in settlement.

So what does this mean for your coin jar? Basically, you cannot be sued for non-payment if you have used legal tender, but this does not mean that retailers and service providers cannot or will not accept the money, although they are within their rights to do so. Amounts of up to £5 can be paid in 5p or 10p coins, or up to £10 in 50p and 20p pieces. Should be alright to pay for Michael Owen in change then. Pound coins and notes are legal tender up to any amount, provided you are in England or Wales- English notes are not legal tender in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

In this case, the accountant really was laughing all the way to the bank, as on top of the settlement he has reportedly also still got the thousands of coins originally delivered. Still, perhaps Mr Fitzpatrick will settle his court bill with 1089 £1 coins, 20 50p pieces, 50 20p pieces, 43 10p pieces and 100 5p pieces, 6 2p pieces and 20 1p pieces…

[Daily Mail]

TOPICS:   Banking   Economy


  • Kevin
    This is a well known fact surely? Means nothing for your coin jar as you can just pay it in at the bank, or lose a % by going to a coinstar machine at your local supermarket.
  • Dick
    Scottish notes aren't legal tender in Scotland either. Only coins are, and restrictions still apply to coins below £1. English £1 notes were legal tender in Scotland before it was removed from circulation in 1988.
  • MK d.
    Most local shops would be grateful of the loose change as banks charge them about £6 per £100 for it.
  • Capability B.
    Best thing to have done would have been to write 804 cheques for £1 each.
  • Dick
    I'm glad I don't work in Butt Lane.
  • Question
    If the accountant has still got the coins then couldn't Mr fitzpatrick just ask for them back? The accountant didn't accept them so they do not belong to him.
  • me
    That guy is an "acuntant"!
  • Dick
    ^ They were dumped in his garden, apparently. He could charge the dumper for taking care of them.
  • ^
    ^Wouldn't that depend on if he asked FItzpatrick to remove them after telling him that the payment was not accepted? He took them away from the delivery point and put them in his offices; did he give details of where they were and how to collect them? How much could he reasonably charge to store them? In any case I can't see how he could get the new payment and still keep the coins. Newspaper reporting - always giving you the storywithout the facts.
  • DragonChris
    English notes aren't legal tender in NI? Holy fuck, I wish I'd known that when I worked in a shop... Would have been able to screw up the English, who would always reject Northern Irish notes.
  • Dick
    ^ No, neither are debit cards, credit cards, etc. If you worked in a shop and insisted that all transactions were carried out with legal tender, you would probably not sell very much.
  • Olly B.
    ^^ Worth understanding the definition of 'legal tender'. 'Legal tender' is not about buying stuff in shops. Technically, a shop can accept anything it wants from you: coins, cheques, credit cards, a horse, a piece of string etc in return for it giving you goods. Equally they can refuse to accept whatever they choose. Legal tender only applies when you have a debt to pay. Eg if I agree to do some work for you, and you agree to pay me for that work, then when you come to pay me I can expect you to pay in legal tender. And legal tender is effectively just notes and coins, everything else is "promisory", eg they can be exchanged for legal tender. Interestingly only coins are legal tender in Scotland - Scottish notes are not and are "promisory" to the Bank of England issued notes.
  • Gav
    I'd just torch the accountants house, the fucker wouldn't be laughing then.

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