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Credit lottery: The BNPL provider you use can make a big difference to your credit score (and the debt collectors may be called in!)

  • 6 of 9 providers share consumer data with credit reference agencies
  • 3 firms say missed payments could affect credit scores (with 3 more to follow soon)
  • At least 4 companies appear to use debt collection agencies
  • 1, December, 2022, LONDON –

    The personal finance comparison site finder.com contacted every major buy now, pay later (BNPL) provider operating in the UK, to ask what happens to consumers who struggle to repay their debt, and whether missed repayments would get reported to credit reference agencies.

    Of the 9 providers contacted, 6 (67%) share consumer data with credit reference agencies. Currently, only 2 firms, Payl8r and DivideBuy claim that credit scores could be negatively affected by missed payments but Laybuy, Klarna and Paypal (Pay in 3) say this will be changing at an unspecified point in the future. Similarly, as of January 2023, Zilch says that changes due in 2022 were delayed and the data it shares with CRAs does not impact credit scores yet. However, this is due to change during 2023.

    This would mean that two thirds (67%) of the companies in the market could damage consumers’ credit scores if repayments are not made on time.

    When finder.com asked what the last resort action is if customers don’t repay their debt, there was little consistency among the providers. Laybuy, Klarna and Paypal admitted to calling in debt collection agencies, Clearpay also uses them but was reluctant to call them debt collection agencies, DivideBuy refused to disclose what it does as a last resort and Payl8r didn’t respond to the question, despite our multiple requests.

    Flava and Zilch said they don’t use debt collection agents. Zilch says it connects consumers with debt charities without further action, while Flava, which offers an expensive subscription service, said a fee of £3.99 applies with no further action. Splitit reserves the full amount on a credit card upfront.

    In 2021, Citizens Advice revealed that 1 in 10 BNPL shoppers had been chased by debt collectors and paid £39 million in late fees over the previous year.

    To see the research in full visit: https://www.finder.com/uk/does-buy-now-pay-later-affect-your-credit-score

    Commenting on the findings, Rachel Wait, a journalist and personal finance expert who carried out the research for finder.com, said:

    “The lack of consistency among the major BNPL providers struck me when contacting them. A few were helpful and clear with their responses. Others were unwilling to share information that they should be making easily available to consumers before they sign up, and DivideBuy even refused to say what could ultimately happen to customers who don’t pay. I had to ask some providers more than 3 times before I could get any answers. And I had to ask 1 provider, Payl8r, 10 times and still haven’t had a proper response. What hope do consumers have of finding out this information?”

    “If you’re thinking about using a BNPL service, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re signing up to first. You ought to be able to easily find out what could happen to your credit score, any fees and what happens if you can’t pay, on the provider’s website (and ideally at the retailer’s checkout, too).. But when carrying out my research, I found these weren’t always clear – sometimes they’re buried on the site or unclear, or both. If you’re unsure about anything, I’d say it’s best to steer clear of using these services and look for alternative options.”

    Methodology:
    Finder contacted every major Buy Now, Pay Later provider operating in the UK, between 5 October and 25 November using a combination of chatbots, call centres and direct conversations with employees.
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