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Third of young shoppers worried over buy now, pay later splurge

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Young shoppers who spent more over Christmas and the January sales due to the availability of buy now, pay later schemes have been left overwhelmed by the repayments.

The use of buy now, pay later (BNPL) schemes such as Klarna and Clearpay has rocketed over the past couple of years.

BNPL schemes are a form of credit, giving shoppers the opportunity to buy something now and pay for it in the future. But because of the way some schemes work, they can quickly become expensive if the debt isn’t cleared, with interest and other charges added.

Research suggests younger shoppers are particularly vulnerable when it comes to using the schemes and making repayments, taking on more debt than they can afford.

Four in 10 Gen Z shoppers (18-24-year-olds) spent more than expected in the Christmas and January sales using unregulated BNPL loans, compared to a third of people on a national scale.

The research from Barclays Partner Finance revealed this has left young shoppers with an average of £175.50 in monthly repayments – making up a fifth of their monthly discretionary income.

For 68%, they’ve racked up debts across multiple BNPL platforms, with 59% entering agreements with three or more providers simultaneously.

Two in five said they’re ‘overwhelmed’ by the repayments, while one in three are unsure whether they’ll be able to repay the loan.

For one in 12, they’ve already been contacted by debt collectors, while 12% said their credit score has been impacted.

The survey of 2,000 also revealed that half regret using BNPL altogether for their fashion and beauty fixes, as they ended up buying more than they could afford to repay.

Parents have also reported feeling uneasy about their children using the schemes, with 45% actively discouraging their kids from doing so.

Worryingly, Barclays Partner Finance found that a fifth of parents have had to bail out their adult children who have been unable to repay their BNPL debts.

The government has announced its intention to regulate BNPL products and Barclays said the sector should be subject to the same full regulatory framework that applies to other consumer credit products.

Antony Stephen, CEO of Barclays Partner Finance, said: “Rising inflation and energy bills are contributing to the growing cost of living crisis. This makes it much harder for consumers, particularly those in financially vulnerable groups, to stay on top of spending, and many are drawn to BNPL as a way to maintain their current lifestyle.

“As things stand, newer BNPL products are not subject to the same regulation as more traditional credit agreements. With many providers, consumers are not even given a detailed affordability assessment, and the credit reference agencies are given no visibility of the loans that are dished out. That’s a problem, because it allows consumers to get into unmanageable and overwhelming levels of debt, an issue that our research shows is hitting Gen Z shoppers particularly hard.”

Richard Lane, director of external affairs at StepChange added: “It’s particularly worrying that young people with less financial experience to draw upon are becoming such widespread users of unregulated credit. We already know that use of BNPL has significant crossover with financial difficulty – our own research suggests that around a quarter of BNPL users are having to turn to borrowing just to keep up with their essential costs. It’s vital to bring regulation of this sector into line with other forms of consumer credit.”

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