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Navigating the New Era: The UAE's Bold Step Towards Regulating "Buy-Now, Pay-Later"


In a significant move on September 29, 2023, the UAE Central Bank (CBUAE) launched the Finance Companies Regulation, replacing its 2018 predecessor and marking a new chapter in consumer finance by formally recognising "buy-now, pay-later" (BNPL) schemes as a form of consumer Short-Term Credit. This pivotal step not only showcases the central bank’s forward-thinking approach but also its commitment to fostering a balanced financial ecosystem where innovation thrives alongside consumer protection.


A Glimpse into the Future: Market Trends and Regulatory Shifts


The Finance Companies Regulation emerges as a beacon of progress, setting a precedent for the regulation of the previously uncharted BNPL sector in the UAE. This move is in sync with the broader regional efforts, notably mirroring initiatives like those by the Saudi Central Bank, to bring structure and stability to this rapidly evolving market.


The Middle East has witnessed an explosive growth in the BNPL sector, driven by a consumer base eager to embrace flexible payment solutions for their online and offline shopping needs. This burgeoning demand has not only fueled the expansion of BNPL services but has also opened new avenues for investment, particularly in the realm of receivables-backed financing.


Defining the Contours of Short-Term Credit


At the heart of the Finance Companies Regulation is a comprehensive definition of Short-Term Credit, encapsulating the essence of BNPL offerings. This credit form, characterized by interest-free installments over a short period, is aimed at facilitating the purchase of specified goods or services without imposing financial burdens like interest, liens, or security deposits on the borrower.


A Framework for Responsible BNPL Provision


The regulation meticulously outlines the criteria for entities eligible to offer BNPL products, ensuring that only those with the requisite licenses, be it agents of licensed banks or finance companies or Restricted Licence Finance Companies specifically authorized by the CBUAE, can operate in this space. This licensing regime, underscored by an initial and renewable three-year period, underscores the CBUAE's commitment to maintaining a controlled and ethical lending environment.


Safeguarding Consumer Interests: Central to the Regulation are provisions designed to protect consumers, ranging from sensible credit limits and fee restrictions to mandatory credit assessments for substantial credit lines. These measures, together with the mandate for transparent disclosure of terms, aim to prevent over-indebtedness, ensuring that BNPL remains a viable and responsible choice for consumers.


Fostering a Stable and Transparent Financial Ecosystem: Beyond consumer protection, the Regulation is poised to enhance the financial sector's resilience by establishing clear operational guidelines for BNPL providers, enhancing regulatory oversight, and promoting responsible lending practices. This holistic approach not only benefits consumers but also bolsters the financial ecosystem's overall integrity and stability.


A Balanced Approach to Innovation and Protection: The UAE's adoption of the Finance Companies Regulation represents a thoughtful balance between nurturing financial innovation and ensuring consumer safety. As the BNPL sector continues to evolve, this regulatory framework serves as a model for how jurisdictions can embrace new financial technologies while upholding the principles of consumer protection and financial stability.


How can Surety help?


Considering a new BNPL business in the UAE, or are you an existing business looking to evidence your compliance? Surety allows you to easily identify control and compliance gaps and trace back your compliance state to the underlying requirements.


Identify efficiencies and demonstrate an effective control environment to your regulators. Globally. Get in touch to see how Surety can help.


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