Reply to Parliamentary Question on “Buy now, Pay later” (BNPL) Schemes Offered by Digital Platforms
QUESTION NO 990
NOTICE PAPER 399 OF 2021
FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
Date: For Parliament Sitting on 11 May 2021
Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Miss Cheryl Chan Wei Ling, MP, East Coast GRC
To ask the Prime Minister with regard to ‘Buy now, Pay later’ digital platforms (a) what measures are implemented to prevent the young or compulsive buyers from taking on too much debt; (b) whether there are plans to verify the income of those using these platforms for purchases; and (c) whether a centralised system can be used to check the advance taken between credit cards and these platforms.
Answer by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister and Minister in charge of MAS:
1. “Buy now, Pay later” (“BNPL”) schemes are typically offered by digital platforms to enable consumers to pay for their purchases in instalments. As in most jurisdictions, BNPL schemes fall outside of MAS’ regulations on credit, which apply to banks and finance companies.
2. Using BNPL schemes, like traditional instalment plans, can make purchases appear more affordable. MAS shares Miss Cheryl Chan’s concern that BNPL could lead to excessive consumer borrowing, especially among youth and impulsive buyers.
3. MAS and other government agencies are hence examining if some form of regulation is necessary for BNPL schemes. The measures that Miss Cheryl Chan referred to will be considered as part of this study.
4. We will examine the adequacy of existing risk management practices and safeguards against people chalking up excessive debts. Currently, most BNPL schemes are restricted to small-value purchases. Late fees apply instead of interest, and the fees are typically capped instead of accruing continuously until the outstandings are paid. Further, existing limits on unsecured consumer credit will cap the spending on BNPL schemes when repayments are made using credit cards. If a regulatory framework is deemed necessary, it will be proportionate to the risks, and ensure that any potential convenience afforded by these BNPL schemes are not unduly curtailed.
5. In the meantime, MAS has worked with the media to highlight the pitfalls of taking on excessive credit, including the considerations that consumers should bear in mind before entering into a BNPL scheme. Consumers should be mindful that late fees or charges will apply for missed re-payments.