CFPB opens inquiry into “Buy Now, Pay Later” credit

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a series of orders to five companies offering “buy now, pay later” credit. The orders to collect information on the risks and benefits of these fast-growing loans went to Affirm, Afterpay, Klarna, PayPal, and Zip. The CFPB explained that it is concerned about accumulating debt, regulatory arbitrage, and data harvesting in a consumer credit market already quickly changing with technology.

In a press release, the CFPB described “Buy now, pay later” credit as “a type of deferred payment option that generally allows the consumer to split a purchase into smaller installments, typically four or less, often with a down payment of 25 percent due at checkout. The application process is quick, involving relatively little information from the consumer, and the product often comes with no interest. Lenders have touted BNPL as a safer alternative to credit card debt, along with its ability to serve consumers with scant or subprime credit histories.” The agency noted that “[m]erchants are adopting BNPL programs and are willing to typically pay 3 percent to 6 percent of the purchase price to the companies, similar to credit card interchange fees, because consumers often buy more and spend more with BNPL. Indeed, BNPL’s use has spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout the holiday shopping season.”

The agency also published a blog post for consumers: Know before you buy (now, pay later) this holiday season.

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