The surge in ‘buy now pay later’ – and why we should be worried

Payday loans

Fintech firms are jostling to offer millennials interest-free payment plans as they shop online. Retailers love it of course, but all this unregulated lending is ringing alarm bells

Shoppers tempted by Boohoo’s bestselling satin skater dress are bombarded by options to pay for it using today’s hottest form of consumer credit – “buy now, pay later”.The fast-fashion website gives shoppers four ways to pay for the £30 dress in instalments: from three monthly payments of £10 with Klarna, to six weekly lots of £5 with Laybuy. Even those trying to buy it outright using a debit or credit card see reminders of “more ways to pay” flash up.

Once a niche form of credit, buy now, pay later (BNPL) deals have exploded during the pandemic. Labelled by some as “the future of millennial finance”, it has gained a foothold among the under-30s and those with tight finances, who have welcomed the ability to delay payment for goods, typically without interest. But it has also stoked fears that the unregulated financial product is encouraging unsustainable spending and reliance on debt.

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