woman with bill

Buy-Now-Pay-Later debt crisis

Dear Anna, 

Since lockdown I’ve been stuck at home with three young children, two have learning difficulties. My partner lost his job because of coronavirus and has been suffering with depression. It’s been really tough (especially keeping the kids happy). I started buying toys and other bits from online catalogues offering buy-now-pay-later. I lost track of what I owed and now have bills for hundreds of pounds – with interest on top. I don’t know what to do. Help!

Angie, Lincolnshire

Hi Angie,

Thanks for sharing this with us – your story is not unusual. The impact of the coronavirus and rise in online retailers offering buy-now-pay-later (BNPL), has meant more people than ever are buying on credit.

According to a report by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), five million people in the UK have bought BNPL products since the beginning of the pandemic. This has increased by four times in 2020 and is worth £2.7 billion. 

The worst thing you can do is ignore the problem and hope it will go away. Help is out there. The first step is to contact a specialist debt advice agency – we would recommend StepChange – you can chat to a support team and experts online via webchat, or phone on 0800 138 1111. You could also call the National Debtline free on 0808 808 4000 or speak to an expert via webchat. There’s also the Debt Advice Foundation (0808 622 6151). They will be able to help you work out a payment plan and find ways to manage the debt.

Meanwhile steps are being taken to regulate the BNPL market and protect consumers. The FCA has published a review calling for increased regulation and long-term funding for debt advice services. It has also suggested that there needs to be an alternative to high-cost credit. The FCA proposes working with the Government and the Bank of England to introduce the new regulations.

We can only hope that these steps are put in place soon, in order to prevent more of us falling victim to consumer credit debt.

I hope this helps you Angie, and best of luck.

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