A man from Tiverton has received £5,000 after he was arrested for trying to use a £100 coin to pay for his fuel at a Tesco garage last year.
In July 2020, Brett Chamberlain was arrested by the police after staff at the Exeter Vale Tesco supermarket refused to accept the Royal Mint (RM) coin – which is legal tender in accordance with the Coinage Act 1971.
Brett said: “You can buy the RM coins for around £80 online, and so when I go to fill up £100 in fuel using the coin, I’m making a bit of a profit on it.
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“So I went and filled up with diesel, put my £100 coin on the counter, they refused to accept it.
“They phoned the police who then told me I could either fill out the ‘no means to pay’ agreement or I would be arrested.
“I refused to fill out the form as I did have legal means to pay. I recorded the whole thing, and in the end the police arrested me.”
Brett, who is a Carpenter, said it was not the first time he had tried paying for fuel with a £100 coin, adding that overall he has made a profit of around £2,000 by paying for fuel using the coins.
The 52-year-old also explained that the incident last year was not the first time he had experienced issues trying to use the coin.
He said: “I am not a coin collector, but it all started a while back after I found a load of coins whilst metal detecting.
“Admittedly, they were a bit tarnished but they are all legal tender coins and current.
“And so I decided to test them by filling up with diesel. Tesco refused to accept them.
“Anyway, the police turned up just like last year, and said that I had to fill out the form or they would arrest me.
“That annoyed me and so I went away and did some research and found that actually, I am right. It’s not okay that police would threaten to arrest me for using the Queen’s money.
“So that is what got me started on it.”
Brett says that the whole thing started off as a bit of an experiment as he knew the coins were legal tender in accordance with the Coinage Act 1971.
He said: “The Royal Mint made these coins (£20, £50 or £100), which are all legal tender.
“The petrol stations are obliged to accept it, they have no legal recourse to refuse it and claim that I didn’t pay.
“So really it was a bit of an experiment.
“The county’s biggest retailer Tesco, with the police, the Queen and the Royal Mint, it seemed to me to be an interesting conundrum.
“So again, I went down to Tesco, filled up £100 exactly, put my £100 coin on the counter and they refused to accept.”
Brett recorded the conversation between him and the police officer, watch below:
Brett says that a similar thing happened again. The police turned up but this time they confiscated the coin and sent it away to RM who confirmed it was indeed genuine.
He said: “I contacted Trading Standards and they said write a letter of complaint to Tesco Head Office.
“Tesco came back saying they do accept it in its petrol stations by means of ‘commemorative’ coins including the £100 denomination.”
And so, fast-forward to the incident at Exeter Vale Tesco in July 2020, Brett says he was surprised at how the police handled the situation despite the fact he was offering to pay with legal tender.
Brett recorded the ordeal with the police officer who proceeded to argue with him, before he was placed under arrest on suspicion of “making off without payment”.
Brett said: “No further action was taken. Around 6-months later I then took civil action and received £5,000 in compensation.”
Following the incident, Devon and Cornwall Police have said in a statement that the force had: “Considered all the complaints raised and have taken steps to recognise and rectify the issues raised in this case.”
Tesco said in a statement: “Although commemorative coins are classified as legal tender, they are not considered to be circulating legal tender – which must be accepted in businesses and banks.
“For this reason, retailers are not obliged to accept them as a form of payment – it is at their discretion and our Tesco Exeter Vale store decided not to accept commemorative coins.”
What are the Royal Mint legal tender guidelines?
In a statement on their website, a spokesperson for Royal Mint said: “Legal tender has a very narrow and technical meaning in the settlement of debts. It means that a debtor cannot successfully be sued for non-payment if he pays into court in legal tender.
“It does not mean that any ordinary transaction has to take place in legal tender or only within the amount denominated by the legislation. Both parties are free to agree to accept any form of payment whether legal tender or otherwise according to their wishes.
“In order to comply with the very strict rules governing an actual legal tender it is necessary, for example, actually to offer the exact amount due because no change can be demanded.
“In practice this means that although the silver UK coins we produce in denominations of £5, £20, £50 and £100 are approved as legal tender, they have been designed as limited edition collectables or gifts and will not be entering general circulation. As such, UK shops and banks are unlikely to accept them.”
The amounts for legal tender are stated below.
In England and Wales, the £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes are legal tender for payment of any amount.
Coins are legal tender throughout the United Kingdom for the following amount:
£100 – for any amount
£50 – for any amount
£20 – for any amount
£5 (Crown) – for any amount
£2 – for any amount
£1 – for any amount
50p – for any amount not exceeding £10
25p (Crown) – for any amount not exceeding £10
20p – for any amount not exceeding £10
10p – for any amount not exceeding £5
5p – for any amount not exceeding £5
2p – for any amount not exceeding 20p
1p – for any amount not exceeding 20p
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