In recent days an increasingly popular high-cost short-term credit called ‘buy now pay later’ (BNPL) is frequently in the news headlines. BNPL is a type of loan that enables consumers to delay the payment; usually 14 to 30 days in full or to spread the cost over several months in installments. The attractive feature of the loan is that it is interest-free.
This loan is essentially used when consumers buy goods online. The option to defer or slice up payment comes up at check out (for more see here
). Unsurprisingly, the product is very popular
with younger generations (so-called millennials and Generation Z). However, ‘fashion-conscious’ shoppers
are not the only consumers of this product; it is increasingly being used by those in financial difficulties. On the provider side, BNPL is a world of fintech, many established and newly emerged financial technology companies such as Klarna
are offering this product, even the highly successful and popular Revolut
is currently working on developing their own BNPL. Most recently Amazon
teamed up with Affirm to offer BNPL to their customers.
However, as with any credit product, BNPL is not without dangers. Research shows BNPL users might not be fully aware
of the potential of this product to contribute to the accumulation of large debt. The seemingly innocent, interest-free feature of the product encourages consumers to spend irresponsibly and beyond their means. BNPL tends to be heavily advertised, often resulting in unplanned and impulsive purchases. Klarna even commissioned a research study
into consumers’ shopping behavior, providing evidence for partner retailers on ‘how to persuade shoppers to make ‘emotional’ purchases
instead of ‘logical’ ones’. Although free to enter into the contract; for consumers who do not pay back the loan on time or miss a payment, the BNPL product acts as any other loan. It potentially triggers additional fees and charges such as late payment charges, and even (backdated) interest; impacts the consumer’s creditworthiness and credit score; and it is subject to debt enforcement and potentially harmful debt collection practices. In the UK around the third of BNPL customers
faced these consequences.
Given the nature of these credit products and the way they are sold, there is no question BNPL loans deserve regulatory attention. It is particularly positive that the EU Commission’s newly presented Proposal for a Directive on Consumer Credits now proposes
to regulate interest-free credit and thus these types of loans.