Buy Now, Pay Later: Regulation Debate

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Department: HM Treasury

Buy Now, Pay Later: Regulation

Lord Sikka 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 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.

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, buy now, pay later services may offer interest-free periods, but, as has already been said, they charge high interest rates and fees for late payments, which really push up the price of the product. Without regulation, this industry is likely to go the same way as pawnbrokers, who charge interest of up to 160%. Will the Government impose a ceiling for the fees and interest rates that this industry can charge?

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Portrait Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con)
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I am not sure whether the noble Lord has looked at what the late payment fees are for buy now, pay later firms. They are incredibly small, because the business model is very different in that it does not necessarily rely only on such charges; they are paid by the retailers as well. As I said, all sorts of existing and broad consumer protections underpin fair contracts—that would be the Consumer Rights Act. The FCA has already taken action against six buy now, pay later firms, where it felt that the contract terms were either unfair or unclear. The system is working; it is a very complicated area; the Government are looking at the responses to the consultation, and we will publish a response in due course.