5c coins still legal tender, says SARB

2014-08-26 00:00

WHEN Marsha Govender tried to pay a retailer for her groceries with several five cent coins, among other cash, she was shocked when the cashier and the store manager flatly refused to accept the money.

And as this case highlights it’s how a complaint is handled that makes the world of difference, even if it means responding later, to apologise to a customer.

Govender had been shopping at the Food Lovers’ Market on Berea Road, Durban.

“My total bill amounted to R52,20. I offered a R50 note, two rand coin and four 5c coins only to be told by the cashier that the store does not accept 5c coins,” she said.

Govender said she had then escalated her complaint to the manager, who she claimed “rudely” insisted that 5c coins were no longer legal tender in South Africa.

“To the best of my knowledge 5c coins are still legal tender and according to the SARB I could tender a maximum of 10 5c coins for any transaction,” Govender said.

“As a consumer what are my rights in this regard? Can I insist on tendering the 5c pieces?”

Similarly, Govender said she also conversely expected cashiers to always give customers their five or 10 cents change.

“The store would never allow me to purchase a product if I paid 5c less yet they deem it completely acceptable to short change me. I usually insist on my full change even if it is just 5c.”

Govender said she had further escalated the matter to the Food Lovers’ Market customer service desk but had not received a response at the time she complained to me.

However, before I made contact with Food Lovers’ Market last week to take up her issue, she had received an e-mail from store manager Nuno Goncalves, who humbly apologised for her “bad experience”.

“There was some confusion regarding 5c to complete your purchase. The last I had spoken to Standard Bank Davenport I was told they do not deal in 5c pieces any more. I enquired at the bank this week and they told me 5c is still legal tender [and] they will take back but not give out as it’s not minted any more,” Goncalves said.

“I must apologise. Their initial explanation confused me to thinking it was no longer legal tender. All I can say is that I’m very sorry, take back my words and hope you forgive me … I hope to see you back in our store so I can make it a much better experience for you,” he said.

Goncalves also explained his error to me and said he agreed with Govender regarding a retailer’s obligation to give customers their small change. He said his store’s tills rounded off totals down to the nearest 10c. “If our cashiers don’t give change, it is theft,” Goncalves said.

Pick n Pay operations director Neal Quirk said the retailer also rounded down to the nearest 10c. “We accept all legal tender at Pick n Pay, this includes 1c, 2c, and 5c coins,” Quirk said.

SA Reserve Bank spokesperson Hlengani Mathebula said the reserve bank had discontinued production of the 5c coin on April 1, 2012. However, he said the coin, as well as 1c and 2c coins remained legal tender. “The public is encouraged to continue to recirculate this coin. Accordingly, all banks and businesses are obliged to continue to accept the 5c coins as legal tender. Business is obliged to accept up to 50c per transaction that is made up of lower denomination coins [1c, 2c, 5c],” Mathebula said. “For bigger denominations [10c, 20c, 50c] business is obliged to accept up to R5 per transaction, and up to R50 per transaction for R1 — R5 coins.

“The SARB has not demonetised any coins, as such 1c, 2c and 5c coins remain legal tender and business has an obligation to accept these coins. As a consumer you can insist on this,” Mathebula said. He added that old nickel 5c and 10c coins can be exchanged at any SARB branch for their equivalent value.

On a less positive note, Lungisane Sithole, who put down an R18 000 deposit — in payments of R10 000 and R8 000 — to buy a R33 000 Hyundai Getz from Lan Car Sales in Churchill Street in Pietermaritzburg, whose case I featured a few weeks back, has not received his refund. When Sithole lost his job he approached owner Tarek Abdul for a refund, to which he is entitled, less a one percent cancellation fee, in terms of the CPA. Abdul, who had repeatedly promised him a refund that never materialised, assured me that he would refund Sithole by August 4.

However, last week Sithole said he had been to the dealer five times to collect his refund but Abdul had told him each time to “come back” in a few days. Exasperated, Sithole went to the small claims court to open a case against the dealership. When I spoke to Abdul on August 15, he again promised to refund Sithole by last Friday, which turned out to be another empty promise. “You are taking only one side,” he told me.

• Send your consumer issues to Lyse Comins at consumer@3i.co.za

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