As foreshadowed last year, the “buy now pay later” (BNPL) market will soon be facing more regulation. Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones recently announced that the government will be moving forward to bring BNPL within the Credit Act’s application to apply a tailored version of the responsible lending obligations to BNPL products.

Late in 2022, the Federal Government released a consultation paper seeking views on options to regulate the BNPL market. The paper outlined three increasingly rigorous options for the regulation of the BNPL market, consisting of: strengthening the BNPL industry code plus an affordability test; limited BNPL regulation under the Credit Act; or full regulation under the Credit Act.

Consultation has since ended, and the Assistant Treasurer has announced that the government will be moving forward with law changes to bring in limited BNPL regulation under the Credit Act, applying a tailored version of the responsible lending obligations to BNPL products so that BNPL providers must hold an Australia credit licence or be a representative of a licensee with a requirement to comply with most general obligations, including internal/external dispute resolution, hardship provisions, compensation arrangements and marketing rules.

Under the proposed changes, providers would be required to assess that credit is not unsuitable for an individual, and would be prohibited from increasing a consumer’s spending limit without explicit instructions from that consumer. Fee caps for charges relating to missed or late payments would be required, combined with additional warning and disclosure requirements. Merchants who offer BNPL products to consumers would not be required to be an authorised credit representatives of the BNPL provider.

The government will be consulting with the industry and consumer groups in the coming months to bed down the details of the potential legislation. Draft legislation is expected to be released for consultation later this year, and the final Bill is expected to be introduced into Parliament by the end of the year.