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Recently I was served a drink at the pub where I intended to pay by debit card and had no alternative payment method available (e.g. cash).

The card reader was faulty and I consumed my drink whilst the barman was attempting to fix the reader. Consumption of the drink before payment was with the barman's consent.

In the end, the card reader was fixed, but if the vendor cannot accept payment for a non-returnable product and the consumer intended to pay, then is the payment waived and the product free?

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In general, you still need to pay for the drink.

If you had purchased the drink (on credit, ie a tab or similar as you appear to have done), and you had offered the vendor CASH, and he had refused, [if you can prove you offered him cash] he would be unable to pursue you for the debt (technically you would still owe it to him, but as he had declined government issued tender the government won't act on his claim, so he has no remedy available to him to extract payment - although he can refuse to serve you in future etc).

Paying through a debit card is not the same as paying cash - although the money goes out of your account and into his, its not "legal tender" in the same way cash is.

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