‘Over half’ of young people have borrowed to pay BNPL debts

Over half - 51 per cent - of 18–34-year-olds have borrowed money to pay off their Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) debts, according to new research from Citizens Advice.

The consumer organisation surveyed 2,288 people in the UK who had used BNPL in the previous 12 months.

The number of consumers borrowing to pay BNPL debts falls to 39 per cent for 35–54-year-olds and 24 per cent for the over-55s.

Credit cards were by far the most popular option for paying down BNPL debts according to the research, the others included loans from friends and family, personal loans, and payday loans.

In addition, the charity found that one in ten didn’t fully understand how the repayments might work.

Citizens Advice has called for regulation to protect customers, including affordability checks and more information at checkouts.

The research comes as the BNPL space is seeing a multitude of new entrants.

Apple earlier this week announced the introduction of Apple Pay Later, pitting the tech giant against major FinTechs including Klarna and ClearPay in the fast-growing alternative payments space.

However, the sector is showing signs of moving towards an increasingly regulated model.

Klarna began reporting customer debts to credit agencies in the UK - such as Experian and TransUnion - from the beginning of this month, which could have an impact on customer credit ratings.

“Most of the people I speak to who are using BNPL live off overdrafts and credit cards, so are using these for repayments,” said Millie Harris, a debt adviser at Citizens Advice. “It’s just relying on one debt to pay off another debt.”

“It’s heartbreaking to see parents who can’t afford their children’s clothes or shoes, turning to BNPL, thinking it’s doing them a favour. In reality it’s just more debt and more creditors, on top of what they’re already facing.”

“What scares me most is how easily people can slip into using BNPL. They come to rely on it much more quickly than other forms of credit. It’s just a few clicks at a checkout.”

She added: “Too often that means people don’t realise how serious it is; that it is credit and there are consequences if they don’t repay it.”

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