Zip share price hits multi-year low as Assistant Treasurer flags BNPL regulation

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illustration of laptop with down arrow and the word zip representing zip share price going down.

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Key points

  • ASX BNPL shares like Zip are tumbling on the latest comments from Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services, Stephen Jones 
  • Jones forewarned the industry that it will be regulated as credit products 
  • The impost comes at a time when the sector is facing growing risk of bad debts, rising interest rates and slowing consumer spending 

The Zip Co Ltd (ASX: ZIP) share price fell to a new six-year low today as the federal government flagged new regulations for the buy now, pay later (BNPL) sector.

The Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services, Stephen Jones, broke the news in media interviews on a number of platforms.

He said that BNPL services will be regulated as credit products by the middle of 2023 as he wants to ensure “guard rails” for the industry.

Zip share price joins peers in the sin bin

The Zip share price declined 2.4% to 62 cents while the Block Inc CDI (ASX: SQ2) share price tumbled 6.1% to $109.18 in after lunch trade.

Other players in the space also fell. The Humm Group Ltd (ASX: HUM) share price and Splitit Ltd (ASX: SPT) share price lost over 4% each.

Growing headwinds for ASX BNPL shares

Investors are spooked by the prospect of tighter regulations as that could crimp the growth of the industry. ASX BNPL shares don’t need another headwind as escalating interest rates and a slowing economy are already weighing on the sector.

There are fears that bad debts will rise due to the aggressive rate hikes by the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Higher interest rates will also make funding more expensive for the Zip share price, along with its peers.

Quacking like ‘a duck’

The sector has long argued that they are not like other credit providers. BNPL products are usually interest-free and have short repayment cycles.

But some consumer groups have lobbied the new Labor government to increase legal protection for users.

The Assistant Treasurer said:

We are not interested in having a conversation about whether this particular service is credit or not. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, it’s a duck – and it should be regulated as a credit product.

The BNPL industry tried to head off new regulations by developing a code of conduct last year.

Potential silver lining for the Zip share price

While Jones believes that’s a good start, he noted the code was voluntary and that stricter rules were needed.

Stephen Jones added:

We’re talking to the regulators, principally ASIC, and we’re also getting some work done through Treasury on what the appropriate way is to regulate this. A bare minimum is that it operates on a level playing field.

If there is a silver lining, it’s comments from Jones that the laws applying to BNPL won’t be identical to those applied to other debt products, like loans.

Investors will be hoping for the Zip share price’s sake, that this means a much more relaxed set of rules for BNPL players.

Motley Fool contributor Brendon Lau has positions in Block, Inc. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has positions in and has recommended Block, Inc. and ZIPCOLTD FPO. The Motley Fool Australia has positions in and has recommended Block, Inc. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Humm Group Limited. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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