Buy now pay later stocks slump as U.S. consumer watchdog seeks more regulatory oversight

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Affirm Holdings Inc. website home screen on a laptop computer in an arranged photograph taken in Little Falls, New Jersey.
Gabby Jones | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Buy now pay later stocks slipped on Thursday after a report released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau indicated that it's seeking more oversight of those companies.

Shares of PayPal fell 1.5%, while Block and Affirm Holdings slumped 2% and 5.1%, respectively.

The consumer watchdog, which doesn't curently regulate the sector, plans to issue guidance aimed at subjecting these companies to the same standards as credit card companies — including supervisory exams.

The news comes less than a year after the CFPB said it opened an inquiry into five major BNPL players to gather information about risks associated with the popular loans, and their impact on debt accumulation. The group consisted of PayPal, Block, Affirm, Klarna and Australia-based Zip.

Buy now pay later, which allows users to purchase items and pay for them in the future, has come under pressure in recent months as consumers slow their spending and regulatory pressure mounts, with a recession posing further risks to these fintech businesses.

Data from the CFPB report suggests that BNPL loans in the U.S. soared 970% between 2019 and 2021, to 180 million transactions among the five major lenders, with the value of those loans jumping 1,092% to $24.2 billion.

But as the model skyrocketed in popularity during the pandemic, the CFPB also said that late fees are mounting. In 2021, 10.5% of users were subject to at least one late fee, up from 7.9% in 2020.

Shares of Affirm, PayPal and Block have tumbled more than 48% this year amid the broader market sell-off, and sit at least 65% off their 52-week highs.

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