Iona for Vice: the real cost of ‘buy now pay later’

Klarna, Clearpay and Laybuy promise affordable shopping, but they’re really just debt dressed up in a fast fashion wrapper, writes Robin Eveleigh for VICE UK. I was quoted on why buy now pay later is a debt bomb waiting to explode…

buy now pay later

Fronting the cost of a new wardrobe by paying in installments is nothing new. Long before they ditched paper catalogues in favour of internet retail, mail order giants like Littlewoods and Freemans let cash-strapped shoppers divvy up a big spree over several monthly pay packets. But the last few years have seen an explosion in slick new ways to split up the cost of your online shopping, helping to propel the pace of fast fashion to dizzying warp speeds.

You might have seen ‘buy now, pay later’ (BNPL) operators Klarna, Clearpay and Laybuy pop up as a form of payment on the checkout page of your online shopping trolley. They’re used by most of the big fashion brands in the UK – but whichever option you plump for, you’re really doing what older generations call “getting into debt”.

Critics say the range of BNPL options and their terms can be so confusing that you might not even know it until you open that letter from a debt collector, and millennials and Gen Zers are an easy target. According to a 2019 report from the Resolution Foundation, real hourly pay for 18-29 year olds in the UK fell 9.2 percent between 2009 and 2014 – but the pressure to consume and spend is higher than ever.

“Young people, generally speaking, have an extremely poor understanding of what credit is and how it works,” says Young Money blogger Iona Bain. “They’re being persuaded to buy more fast fashion products than they really need, because it’s all made so easy. It’s not good for your bank balance, and it’s not good for the environment – but we’re told it’s a perfectly valid way to shop.”

Read the rest of the piece here.

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