Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) deals are a slippery slope into serious debt problems for a growing number of UK consumers.
That’s according to the charity Citizens Advice, whose research suggests that one in 10 people who have entered a BNPL arrangement has subsequently been chased by debt collectors.
The same research also indicates that roughly £39 million was charged as late fees in the past year in relation to BNPL arrangements taken on across the UK.
With millions of people, including many thousands in Scotland, now using BNPL as part of the way they pay for certain goods, Citizens Advice is worried about some of the trends in evidence.
The charity has learned that around 96 per cent of people who found themselves being chased by debt collectors in relation to BNPL deals had a negative experience.
For most people, those negative experiences involved some combination of sleepless nights, borrowing money to pay other debts, becoming fearful of emails, phone calls and knocks on the door, and a general deterioration in mental health.
Citizens Advice has noted that retailers that offer BNPL arrangements usually don’t warn their customers that they could be pursued by debt collectors if they miss payments.
The charity has said that consumers need to be made more aware of the potential consequences of falling behind on their BNPL debts and that the market as a whole should be more closely regulated than is currently the case in the UK.
“The sheer number of shoppers facing debt collection is startling. We know from our frontline advisers just how much stress this can cause,” explains Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice.
“A seamless Buy Now Pay Later checkout process should not mean shoppers have to dig around in the small print to find out they’re taking out a credit agreement and could be referred to debt collectors if they can’t pay. The warnings should be unmissable.
“The Buy Now Pay Later industry has exploded and we need consumer protection to keep up with the changes in the way we live. We hope the Treasury can keep pace.”
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