Buy Now, Pay Later: Regulation Debate

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Department: HM Treasury

Buy Now, Pay Later: Regulation

Lord Livermore Excerpts
Wednesday 7th February 2024

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I do not believe so, because, as I said, it is not a huge amount of debt. The average balance for younger people aged 25 to 34 is just £185. One experience that I think many users have of buy now, pay later is that they may, once, have a late fee—I know that my children certainly have—and then they learn, and they do not do it again. Those fees are not particularly expensive, but Experian, for example, would say that 99% of agreements were settled on time in January and February. We cannot shut off access to a form of interest-free credit which has saved consumers more than £100 million. It is really important that we get the balance right.

Lord Livermore Portrait Lord Livermore (Lab)
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My Lords, in February 2021, the Government promised to act swifty to regulate buy now, pay later. Three years later, legislation is nowhere in sight. While the Government have delayed, leaving millions of consumers unprotected, Labour has set out plans for regulating the sector. That includes a requirement for clearer information, while ensuring the same protections for consumers as they get when using a credit card. To move things along, will the Government now adopt Labour’s plan, which has received broad support from all major buy now, pay later providers?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I have to be honest with the noble Lord in saying that I have not read Labour’s plan, but he talked about clarity of information. It is worth pointing out that it is not just the FCA that looks at advertising and financial promotion. We have the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008; we have the Consumer Rights Act, and then we have the UK advertising code. In terms of information, it is clear that consumers have a number of recourses, but I return to what I said at the outset: the consultation closed in April 2023; the Government have reiterated our position that regulation must be proportionate. I am quite surprised that the Labour Party thinks that it has a solution that has been backed by all buy now, pay later firms, because it is a very complex area and we need to achieve a balance.