Home Business News Half of UK adults have now used BNPL as the government delays plans to regulate the sector 

Half of UK adults have now used BNPL as the government delays plans to regulate the sector 

by Thea Coates Finance Reporter
6th Feb 24 7:43 am

An increasing number of Brits are using buy now, pay later (BNPL) services despite the government being unlikely to introduce planned regulation to the sector in the UK ahead of the general election this year.

Such legislation would give the FCA more power to regulate firms and protect consumers from unrestricted, easily accessible lending.

Half of adults in the UK (50%) have used BNPL at some point, an estimated 26.4 million Brits, according to new research from personal finance comparison site finder.com.

14% of those Brits started using BNPL for the first time in 2023, despite it still being largely unregulated, which is approximately 7.7 million people.

After announcing plans to regulate the sector in 2021, the government released a draft of new rules in 2023 but has yet to publish a response to the consultation that followed, despite pressure from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

BNPL usage is particularly common among the younger generations, as 69% of millennials (aged 24-42) and 68% of generation Z (aged 18-23) have used it. However, while BNPL is becoming more popular, almost 2 in 5 Brits (38%) have never used the payment method and have no intention to use it in the future.

A high number of BNPL users report paying late fees

Many BNPL providers have now introduced fees to customers for making late payments. These are generally capped at a certain price point, but customers are charged if they do not make repayments on time in line with their plan and can be charged multiple times per order.

The research from finder.com also found that over half (53%) of those who used BNPL in the 12 months to January 2024 had paid at least one late fee, with the average amount paid sitting at £23.50.

There are concerns that this will impact the credit scores of many Brits who are relying on schemes like buy now, pay later without fully understanding the risks involved.

Liz Edwards, editor-in-chief at the personal finance comparison site, finder.com, said, “There are millions of Brits turning to buy now, pay later during a cost of living crisis, but it’s a total lottery whether they can actually afford it – because BNPL lenders don’t have to check before approving them – whether they’ll get the information they need, whether they’ll be charged a late fee if they miss a payment, and whether, if they can’t pay, the bailiffs will show up.

“Consumers need the same protections in this sector that they get with other types of credit – they need proper information upfront, such as what the deal is and what happens if they miss a payment, and they need to be able to complain to the Financial Ombudsman if things go wrong, which currently, they can’t.

“When I spoke to the Financial Ombudsman’s office about BNPL complaints, it couldn’t tell me how many it had received as it doesn’t keep records for unregulated products, since it can’t investigate them.”

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