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US Banking Regulator Warns on Risks of ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’

Platforms in China, the world’s largest e-commerce market, have recently described a “value-for-money battle” stoked by economic insecurity and a slower-than-expected retail recover.
The statement was the latest sign that federal regulators are scrutinising the increasingly popular form of consumer credit. (Shutterstock)

A top US banking regulator on Wednesday warned banks to manage the risks to consumers posed by increasingly popular “buy now, pay later” financing for retail spending, saying the service creates pitfalls for retail shoppers.

As the year-end holidays approach, the statement from the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an independent arm of the US Treasury, was the latest sign that federal regulators are scrutinising the increasingly popular form of consumer credit.

The loans allow borrowers to pay off a purchase in four or fewer interest-free instalments but regulators warn they can lead to trouble, leaving unsuspecting borrowers overextended.

“As the ‘buy now, pay later’ market grows and we enter the holiday shopping season, the guidance confirms our expectation that OCC-supervised institutions offering these products do so in a responsible manner,” Michael Hsu, acting Comptroller of the Currency, said in a statement.

Consumers with fewer dollars to spend are increasingly turning to “buy now, pay later” loans, with a record number borrowing nearly $1 billion this way during the annual Cyber Monday shopping spree alone, analysts say. The surge in business has boosted shares in “buy now, pay later” company Affirm.

By Douglas Gillison

Learn more:

Is Fashion’s Buy-Now, Pay-Later Boom Over?

Instalment payment services helped fuel sales for years. But high interest rates could soon have shoppers pulling back.

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