Buy Now Pay Later Financial Products: a new generation of consumer credit?

Thursday 1 July 2021 (09:30-10:30)

Helen Harris:

Speakers: Julia Cook and Kate Davies, University of Newcastle, Australia

Consumer uptake of buy now pay later (BNPL) financial products such as Afterpay (known as Clearpay in the UK) and Zip Pay has surged since they entered the market in the mid-2010s. This is especially the case in Australia, where BNPL transactions increased by 90% between the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 financial years (ASIC, 2020).

Emerging research and commentary have focused predominantly on the regulatory challenges posed by the BNPL industry.

While the UK Government announced in February this year their intention to bring the sector under the regulation of the Financial Conduct Authority, there has been no such commitment by the Australian Government.

In this presentation, we seek to shift the discussion of BNPL financial products from a focus on regulatory issues by putting forward a socio-cultural reading of the rise of these products. Specifically, we focus on how the development of BNPL financial products can be understood in the context of the ‘new adulthood’ (Wyn et al., 2020), during which contemporary young adults are subject to rising expectations of educational attainment, inaccessible and casualised labour markets, highly competitive property markets, and shifting cultural points of reference.

Watch the seminar

More about the speakers

Dr Julia Cook is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Her research interests include the sociology of youth, time and housing, and the intersections of each of these topics and economic sociology. Her most recent research addresses young adults’ pathways into home ownership; regional, mobile rural and remote tertiary students’ experiences of housing; and young adults’ navigation of debt and financial assistance, with a particular focus on small amount credit contracts and buy now pay later financial products. She is co-director of the Newcastle Youth Studies Network and a chief investigator on the current phase of the long-running Life Patterns research program (2021-2025).

Dr Kate Davies is a Human Services Lecturer at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Her research seeks to better understand health and wellbeing inequalities, with a focus on participation and citizenship. Kate’s recent research explores the value of people with lived experience of mental illness and disability in leading, informing and implementing social policy and practice. She is part of a multi-disciplinary research and practice team looking at the inclusion of families in child protection processes and is also contributing to research on young people’s experiences of debt and credit. Kate works with collaborative qualitative research methods that draw together policy, practice and lived experience. 

If you would like to attend this CHASM Seminar, please email Helen Harris –