Everyone dealing in cash is bound to wind up with duff coins and notes from time to time. Harjeet Mann has become so irritated by the amount of foreign and fake coins that people try to pass off at his store in Chesterfield that he sometimes confiscates them. He wondered via our website (www.convenience-store.co.uk) if this was legal and what he could do to deter these sort of customers.
He writes: "I have had this problem for years where customers will pay for goods with large amounts of change and will sneak in either fake coins or coins from the Isle of Man or Jersey, and even some out of date coins and notes.
"Customers with bags of coins come into my shop regularly and counting coins gets tiresome, especially when it's busy. I would weigh them, but I prefer to see each coin. Most of these people come into the shop only to change money and don't even purchase anything, so now I just change money for the regulars and I let the rest kick up a fuss."
The Channel Islands and Isle of Man are Crown Dependencies and they make their own money, which is only legal tender on their own territories and not in the rest of the UK. Similarly, coins and notes bearing a picture of the Queen's head from an overseas territory such as Bermuda, Gibraltar or the Falkland Islands are only valid on their own turf. But no one is entitled to confiscate such coins - they are just as good as dollars or euros and, even if out of date, they become possible collectors' items.
Funny thing legal tender. As Sally Reed from the press office of the Bank of England put it: "It's all about acceptability. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, for example, no notes are 'legal tender', not even their own, and it's not a problem."
The term 'legal tender' has a narrow definition in terms of settlement of debts and has nothing to do with what goes on over shop counters.
According to the Royal Mint, it is, for example, only legal tender to pay in 50p pieces up to the sum of £10. When paying in 2p pieces, it is only legal tender up to any amount not exceeding 20p. So you could refuse to accept coins not staying within these parameters. But would you want to?
If you come across fakes - coins or notes - you can only 'confiscate' if you give the customer a receipt - because you could be wrong and the customer could be innocent. What you must do is notify the police. (I know, they're not going to get excited about another dodgy 50p, or even a £20 note, but them's the rules and you, of course, operate on the right side of the law.)
What else could you do? If you have room you could rent a Coinstar machine. Customers feed their coins into it, get a voucher and then have to spend it in your store. Although such machines are mainly situated in supermarkets, Coinstar says it will be happy to talk to any interested independent. Call 0800 328 2274 for more information.