Independent and FREE - 2021 Best Online Publication

Consumers trapped by buy-now-pay-later schemes

Independent and FREE – 2021 Best Online Publication (Qld Country Press)

Consumers trapped by buy-now-pay-later schemes


Call for global regulations as consumers trapped by buy-now-pay-later schemes

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Consumer groups are calling for a crackdown on buy now pay later (BNPL) credit providers as the new way of paying by instalments gains in popularity.

Australia’s leading consumer body Choice has signed a global statement released on Thursday by Consumers International, saying the easy money looks attractive but is ultimately unaffordable.

“This is a fast path to extreme financial hardship,” Choice CEO Alan Kirkland said.

“Financial counsellors have reported an increase in people with multiple loans from different BNPL companies.”

New research issued by Choice shows 30 per cent of Australians have used a BNPL service in the past 12 months, and 15 per cent of buy now pay later users have missed or been late on a payment.

More than three quarters of those who have missed or been late on a payment have experienced financial hardship as a result of BNPL fees, including taking out an additional loan or foregoing household essentials.

Over one in five (21 per cent) of users in the past 12 months have used it to pay for essential goods and services, such as food, groceries, or utilities bills.

Millions of Australians are planning to use BNPL services to fund their international flights this year, according to research by Finder.

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Charities warned before Christmas that using providers such as Afterpay, Zip Pay, Latitude and Sezzle could lead to major debt problems in the New Year.

Mr Kirkland said there was strong community support to bring the form of credit under national laws.

Almost nine in ten (87 per cent) Australians agree that buy now, pay later companies should have to check someone’s capacity to repay a loan as part of the application process, as credit card firms must do, the research found.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says he is reforming Australia’s payment systems for the digital age.

In December, he announced “more appropriate regulatory oversight” on fees, transparency and competition in the market for BNPL.

But critics say a voluntary code for the industry isn’t enough.