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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 8 Jul 2021

Vol. 1010 No. 3

Consumer Protection (Regulation of Retail Credit and Credit Servicing Firms) Bill 2021: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This Bill will implement the key recommendation in the November 2018 review of personal contract plans, authored by Mr. Michael Tutty, which was to extend the relevant provisions of the Central Bank's consumer protection code to all the providers of hire purchase and personal contract plan agreements to consumers. Personal contract plans, which are generally referred to as PCPs, have become particularly prevalent in the financing of new car purchases by consumers.

Mr. Tutty made a number of clear recommendations in his review. These concerned issues such as establishing whether PCPs come within the definition of "hire purchase" and the collection and publication of hire purchase and PCP statistics. With regard to the former, the Office of the Attorney General has confirmed that PCPs do fall within the definition of "hire purchase". With regard to the latter, additional provision is being made within this Bill to provide that the Minister for Finance may request the Central Bank, using its existing powers, to collect and publish information on credit, hire purchase, including PCPs, and consumer-hire agreements.

While many, if not the majority of, consumers taking out hire purchase and PCP agreements do so from entities regulated by the Central Bank, Mr. Tutty highlighted in his review that consumers were not covered by the consumer protection code because providers of hire purchase and PCP agreements were not required to be authorised by the Central Bank. The possibility of including hire purchase and PCP consumers in the consumer protection code despite the position that not all such providers are regulated was investigated. As this was found not to be possible, the simplest solution is to require that all providers of hire purchase and PCPs be authorised by the Central Bank. This change means that the Central Bank will have the power to apply its consumer protection code, in particular the part that requires firms to assess the suitability of the product for the consumer and the ability of the borrower to repay the debt over the duration of the credit agreement, to such providers.

In addition, the Bill will require providers of indirect credit to consumers to become entities regulated by the Central Bank. Indirect credit, which has become much more available in recent years, is so called because the lender provides credit to the borrower by paying a retailer for the purchase of a good, often as part of a buy now and pay later offer. Providers of indirect credit are not regulated at present because the current definition of "retail credit firm" in the Central Bank Act 1997 requires that credit in the form of a cash loan only must be advanced directly to the borrower. The Bill changes the definition of credit to add a deferred payment or similar accommodation to the existing cash loan and by adding "directly or indirectly" to the provision of credit. The Bill will also provide for the regulation of entities that service or own these agreements. This is to ensure that the provisions that already apply to the sale of credit agreements for cash loans will also apply in respect of sales of hire purchase or consumer hire agreements.

The Bill makes some consequential and related amendments to the Consumer Credit Act 1995. These include extending an existing cost of credit cap of up to 23% APR on credit provided to consumers by certain firms to all entities within the scope of the Act that provide credit or hire purchase - other than moneylending agreements, which have their own regulatory framework - to consumers.

A letter of consultation has already been sent the European Central Bank, ECB. This process is required because the Bill will affect the Central Bank by increasing its responsibilities and workload. I anticipate that the ECB will respond prior to the commencement of the autumn session of the Dáil and its response will be outlined to the House before the closure of the Second Stage debate. Given the relevance of PCPs for the new car market, the Government intends, with the co-operation of the Houses, to complete the passage and enactment of the Bill in time to have the new authorisation regime implemented by the end of year and in advance of the major sales peak that occurs when the registration changes next January.

The Bill contains 17 sections, which I will run through briefly. Section 1 defines the Consumer Credit Act 1995 and the Central Bank Act 1997 as the "Act of 1995" and the "Act of 1997", respectively. These are the two main Acts that will be amended by the Bill.

Section 2 amends section 28 of the 1997 Act by inserting additional definitions and amending definitions. These include expanding the range of agreements that fall within the regulated business of a "retail credit firm" and a "credit servicing firm". As a result, other forms of credit, such as the indirect provision of credit, hire purchase, including PCPs, and consumer hire agreements, will be added to the existing authorisation requirement in respect of the provision of credit in the form of a cash loan.

Section 3 makes a technical amendment to section 29 of the 1997 Act. It confirms that any entity that is covered by any of the new subsections (5)(a) to (d) is not prohibited from carrying on such a regulated business.

Section 4 amends section 29A of the 1997 Act, which provides limited discretion to the Central Bank to exempt certain entities or classes of entity from the requirement to become authorised as retail credit firms in respect of the provision of credit in the form of cash loans, to take account of other changes being made in this Bill and extend it to cover the additional types of financial agreements that will come within the regulated business class of "retail credit firm".

Section 5 inserts a new section 34EA into the 1997 Act to provide for the transitional arrangements for firms that will for the first time come within the scope of Central Bank authorisation as retail credit firms. The section, which mirrors similar provisions in the past, provides that, subject to applying to the Central Bank for authorisation within a period of three months from the commencement of the relevant provisions, they will be deemed to be transitionally authorised by the Central Bank and that authorisation will continue until the Central Bank has granted or refused authorisation.

Section 6 amends section 34FA of the 1997 Act to take account of changes in the definition of "credit servicing firm" as set out in section 2 of the Bill.

Section 7 inserts a new section 34FB into the 1997 Act and mirrors the provision in the new section 34EA in respect of transitional arrangements for firms that will for the first time come within the scope of Central Bank authorisation as a credit servicing firm. As with section 5 in respect of retail credit firms, subject to applying to the Central Bank for authorisation within a period of three months from the commencement of the relevant provisions, existing credit servicing firms will be deemed to be authorised by the Central Bank and that authorisation will continue until the Central Bank has granted or refused authorisation.

Section 8 amends section 34G of the 1997 Act to take account of the wider range of financial agreements, including hire purchase and consumer hire agreements, that will now fall within the scope of "credit servicing firms".

Section 9 inserts a new section 36EA into the 1997 Act to provide that the Minister for Finance may request the Central Bank, using powers it already has under the Central Bank Acts, to collect and publish information on credit, hire purchase, including PCPs, and consumer hire agreements. This will facilitate the publication of statistical data on the level of financial accommodation provided by regulated businesses.

Section 10 amends section 2 of the Consumer Credit Act 1995 by inserting additional definitions and substituted definitions. Currently, the Act provides that the Central Bank may prescribe individual firms to be a credit institution for the purposes of that Act. The amendment will provide that the authorisation category of "retail credit firms" will replace this provision, as such an individual listing will become redundant in light of the new authorisation requirements provided for in section 2 of the Bill. A limited technical change is also being made to the definition of "APR" in the 1995 Act as well as a cross reference to the Central Bank Act 1997.

Section 11 amends section 9 of the 1995 Act to make clear that the APR provisions shall apply to credit and hire purchase, including PCP, agreements and that the Central Bank may, by regulation, amend the method of calculating the APR in respect of credit or hire purchase agreements.

Section 12 amends section 12 of the 1995 Act to provide that a contravention of Part IIA of that Act constitutes an offence.

Section 13 inserts a new Part IIA, which comprises sections 28A and 28B, into the 1995 Act. The purpose of these new sections is to confirm and extend a provision in the Act that limits the cost to consumers of credit provided by certain retail credit firms to 23% APR. Accordingly, section 28A provides that, in respect of a credit agreement, other than a moneylending agreement, that falls within the scope of the 1995 Act, the APR on the agreement shall not be greater than 23%. It also provides that a creditor shall not be entitled to enforce a credit agreement against a consumer where this requirement is not met except where a court is satisfied that a failure to comply with such a requirement is not deliberate and has not prejudiced the consumer and that it would be just and equitable to decide that the agreement shall be enforceable.

Section 28B provides that the requirements, as contained in section 28A in respect of credit agreements, will also apply to hire purchase agreements. Section 14 inserts a new requirement in section 58 of the Consumer Credit Act 1995 to provide that the hire purchase agreements shall, along with other information specified in that section, state the APR. This enables confirmation that a hire purchase agreement complies with the new section 28B. No such amendment is needed for credit agreements because they already require the statement of APR under the Act.

Section 15 amends section 3 of the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Act 2013 to provide that a "hirer" in respect of a hire purchase or personal contract plan, PCP, or consumer-hire agreement shall be a "customer" for the purposes of that Act. Section 16 amends section 2 of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017 to provide that a "consumer" for the purposes of that Act includes a consumer who was in respect of, inter alia, a hire purchase, including PCP, or a consumer hire agreement, a customer of the financial services provider in the case in which a credit servicing firm undertakes credit servicing in respect of that agreement. Section 17 sets out the Short Title and provides for commencement provisions.

This Bill tackles a gap in consumer protection identified in the Tutty report in the protections available to consumers entering into hire purchase and PCP agreements, as well as those entering into indirect credit agreements.

Sinn Féin's slot is next. Deputies Martin Kenny and Patricia Ryan have 20 minutes

I am deputising for Deputy Doherty. I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. It had a long gestation and its being brought to Second Stage has been facilitated by the finance committee's waiving of pre-legislative scrutiny. That is in recognition of its importance and the fact its provisions are long overdue. The general scheme of the legislation was considered by the finance committee in 2019, when it received 14 submissions, as part of its pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. As explained by the Free Legal Advice Centres, FLAC, in its submission, a core issue the Bill seeks to address is that while certain agreements, such as hire purchase agreements, are regulated, the credit provider is not. As a result, they cannot be subject to the consumer protection code.

The legislation comes on the back of numerous reports published in 2018 on the regulation of personal contract plans and the PCP market. These reports were by Michael Tutty on behalf of the Department of Finance and by the ESRI, the Central Bank and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, CCPC. Sinn Féin welcomes this legislation and it is overdue.

In the past number of years, there has been an explosion in the PCP market. The number of personal contract plans for car finance alone between December 2014 and February 2020 increased by 528%, while the total outstanding credit in the PCP market by 2020 stood at €1.7 billion, which represents a 573% increase since December 2014. This sharp rise in the PCP market and PCP credit has raised justified concerns regarding financial stability and consumer protection. PCPs have become the prevalent feature in the Irish motor finance market. A personal contract plan is a type of hire purchase financial arrangement in which the customer is not the owner of the car until the final payment has been made.

PCPs are often characterised by the final balloon payment at the end of the contract which is often much larger than the previous repayments. Unlike other arrangements, the borrower can choose to either return the car to the seller, make a final payment to assume ownership or enter into a new PCP, which is the norm. It has been noted this balloon payment can prove to be expensive. As a consequence, as outlined by Michael Tutty in 2018: "In practice, the tendency in a PCP is that it is rolled over into a new contract at or before the end of the monthly payments."

As the CCPC noted in its 2018 report on PCPs in the Irish market: "The low monthly repayments, while making new cars appear affordable, may in some cases cause consumers to enter contracts which may become unaffordable when the final payment is taken into account." In the view of the commission, "There is potential for detriment in the absence of mandated affordability or suitability checks, particularly given the complexity of PCP products." Given the explosion of the PCP market, the complexity of the products and the risks posed to consumers, a legislative overhaul of this market is timely and long overdue. This Bill seeks to respond to those concerns.

At present, credit intermediaries, defined under the Consumer Credit Act, require annual authorisation by the CCPC but not the Central Bank. Credit intermediaries are normally engaged in leasing or hiring out goods, selling on credit or arranging credit finance, but may also arrange PCP agreements. This Bill seeks to augment the Central Bank's authorisation requirements to those who carry on business relating to hire purchase or consumer-hire agreements. This is done by an amendment to the Central Bank Act 1997. As a result, those entities which are authorised will then be subject to the consumer protection code. That is to be welcomed.

Section 9 will insert a new section into the Central Bank Act, allowing the Minister to request that the Central Bank collect and publish information on credit, hire purchase and consumer hire agreements. This follows a recommendation of the Tutty report and will allow for comprehensive and systematic data to be collect and published. However, it is not guaranteed this data will be collected and published regularly, as subsection 36EA(5) of section 9 provides that they may be requested on a once-off basis.

I ask that consideration be made to make the collection of these data a regular occurrence, at least once every six months. Section 9 does not specify the particulars to be collected and published in those data. These particulars are left to the discretion of the Minister in the request that he makes under the section. As part of the pre-legislative scrutiny of the heads of the Bill in 2019, a number of stakeholders recommended that a span of items be included in the data collected and published.

FLAC recommended details of deposits required for entering these arrangements and the range of penalties and interest which may be charged in the event of default, be included. The Money Advice & Budgeting Service, MABS, suggested the data also include the number and value of such loans in arrears and pointed out that frequently published data by the Central Bank on mortgage arrears is of great use to the agency as it supports borrowers in the services it provides. This legislation does not include such particulars and I ask the Minister to clarify what he intends to request of the Central Bank under section 9.

Sections 10 to 14, inclusive, seek provide for a limit on the interest rate that consumers can be charged under credit and hire purchase agreements, but with some exceptions. It is these provisions I will comment on in the time I have remaining. Section 14 provides that hire purchase agreements shall state the APR charged under the agreements. Of course, this is welcome, but I want to focus my attention on section 13 and the interest rate restriction it will apply. The section will apply that APR, under hire purchase and consumer credit arrangements, cannot exceed 23% with the notable exception of moneylenders. While I welcome this provision, it contradicts the arguments made by the Government and the Minister for Finance with respect to Deputy Doherty's Consumer Credit (Amendment) Bill 2018, which would place a cap on the cost of credit moneylenders can charge.

The Government permits moneylenders to charge APR of 187% or 288% when collection charges are included. When the Minister came before the committee as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny on that Bill, he said the APR was an unsuitable measure for the purposes of a restriction, because of it how behaves in the duration of a loan. Sinn Féin has made clear our intention to move to away from an absolute cap based on APR, to a relative cap based on the total cost of credit charged. The Minister has departed from his argument when it comes to this Bill, opting for an absolute cap based on APR.

In its submission in 2019, FLAC recommended that the Central Bank carry out a review of the merit of differential rates of APR-based on loan duration. I ask the Minister of State to respond to this view. As I mentioned, section 13 exempts moneylenders from the APR cap. In that regard, I draw the Minister of State's attention to proposals published by the European Commission two weeks ago to revise the rules on consumer credit in order to safeguard consumers. Among the proposals was a requirement for member states to introduce caps on the interest, APR or total cost of credit charged by lenders, including moneylenders. As the Commission noted in its proposal, "The fixing of caps on interest rates, on annual percentage rates of charge and or the total cost of the credit to the consumer is a common practice in a number of Member States. Such capping has proved beneficial for consumers." These proposals highlight the Government as an outlier in failing to protect low-income borrowers from high-cost credit, which underlines the importance of Sinn Féin's legislation to impose a cap on the cost of credit that moneylenders can charge. These proposals give fresh impetus to Deputy Doherty's Bill and I ask the Minister of State to co-operate and work with the finance committee on Committee Stage of Bill in the interests of the common good, rather than delay the necessary changes for narrow party political reasons.

Returning to the Bill at hand, I welcome its progress in the Dáil. Sinn Féin supports the objectives it seeks to meet. We will engage with the legislation as it progresses through the Dáil and we are open to tabling amendments to the Bill contingent on the Government and the Minister of State addressing the issues I have raised and the recommendations made by stakeholders such as FLAC and MABS, which are not addressed in this legislation.

Three years after the Tutty report, we finally have legislation which, hopefully, will deal with the concerns expressed in that report. This Bill implements the key recommendation of the Government-commissioned Tutty report that was published in 2018. Many people will be surprised to learn that providers of credit are not yet regulated by the Central Bank. This Bill will require providers of hire purchase and PCP credit lines to become regulated entities. That will give the Central Bank the power to apply the consumer protection code to such firms, particularly the part that requires firms to assess the suitability of the product for the consumer and the ability of the borrower to repay the debt over the duration of the credit agreement. I have, through my office, assisted many people who are dealing with legacy debt. One of the recurring problems is constituents who have been lured in by six-month interest-free credit deals, only to find themselves locked into a four-year high-interest arrangement because companies have made it as difficult as possible to repay the balloon payment at the end of the arrangement. This has to stop.

In addition, the Bill will require providers of indirect credit to become entities regulated by the Central Bank. Indirect credit is so called because the lender provides credit to the borrower by paying a retailer for the purchase of a good. This will significantly improve the level of protection available to the consumers of such agreements. It will also see the existing interest rate cap on credit and hire purchase agreements extended to all entities under the scope of the Consumer Credit Act 1995 through some amendments to that Act. As Deputy Martin Kenny said, moneylenders do not fall within its remit. We must have urgent progress on the Consumer Rights Bill 2021. This is a long overdue Bill to consolidate and modernise consumer protection legislation. The need for that Bill has never been greater.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important Bill. The number of personal contract plans for new cars has sky rocketed since data were first recorded in 2014, from just over 10,000 PCPs then to over 62,000 outstanding PCPs in February 2020. That is an increase of over 500%. Not only has the number of unregulated PCPs risen rapidly, but the outstanding level of PCP debt attached to these car finance loans has also risen, from just €174 million in December 2014 to €1.7 billion in February 2020. That is an increase of 573%. On the basis of the latest data available, PCPs now represent one quarter of all car financing loans by outstanding number and nearly 40% in terms of outstanding value. These are staggering numbers, yet until now there has been no apparent protocol or system put in place to protect consumers, for example, in the event of loss of income and to allow for reduced payments in such circumstances.

Regulation of these entities cannot come quickly enough. The lack of regulation over the last few years will have had dire consequences for many individuals and their families over the last 18 months since the outbreak of Covid-19. Many people with outstanding PCP debt in February 2020 would have been hit very hard by the pandemic, with some losing their jobs and others seeing a significant reduction in their income. Unlike with other regulated loans under the Central Bank, PCP customers, many already facing a staggering amount of debt, would have had little recourse and even less protection, with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission citing PCPs as "among the least flexible forms of finance". A consumer in financial difficulty cannot sell the car without permission from the financial institution or dealership, while those acting as a guarantor may be liable for repayments in the event of a default. Repossessions are also allowed without a court order in cases where less than one third of the PCP is repaid. The so-called final balloon payment that is needed to secure ownership of the vehicle, which is prohibitively expensive at the best of times, would have been nearly impossible for many of those struggling financially during this period.

This also had a direct and noticeable knock-on effect on other second-hand car buyers, with one report last March from highlighting that there is now a one in three chance of a one-year-old and three-year-old vehicle, respectively, being offered for sale with finance still outstanding. That is extraordinary. This suggests a clear trend of people stuck in PCPs desperately trying to sell cars they can no longer afford. The consequence of this is that many unsuspecting buyers of second-hand car face the prospect of having their new vehicles seized by the lending institutions that are owed money. Lenders are currently legally entitled to take those cars. In such situations, the person who has handed over thousands of euro is left with nothing. In short, ordinary people have been left out of pocket while the unregulated PCPs continue to profit regardless of the outcome.

We very much agree with the intent behind this Bill and what is trying to be achieved. In the aforementioned context, with the impact of Covid-19 and the exponential rise in PCP car financing arrangements since 2014, it is pity that action is only being taken now. I and my colleagues acknowledge the work done in the production of the Tutty report. As FLAC and others have noted, repeated attempts have been made over the years to have this issue addressed but, yet again, when it comes to consumer protection and putting ordinary people before the interests of lenders, we have been very slow to act. The Central Bank will have an important role to play, particularly with regard to the interest rate that consumers may be charged under hire purchase and credit agreements. I am pleased that efforts are being made in section 13 of this Bill to deal with interest rates. We hope to analyse that properly on Committee Stage to try to ensure there is a more robust regime in managing the APR and to ensure we do not have a scenario arising like we have, as others have mentioned, in respect of out-of-control moneylenders.

Regulation should go beyond the mere stating of terms and conditions to a deeper recognition of the power and information disparities between big financial institutions and ordinary people. Many who sign up for these PCP products in some circumstances may not have the wherewithal, whether it is lack of time or lack of knowledge, to properly scrutinise these often deliberately complex arrangements and compelling and attractively packaged products. That relates back to a hobby-horse of mine, which is financial literacy and financial information. We have a job of work to do in this country to ensure people are equipped with the skills and information they need to make informed decisions about complex financial products such as these.

Far too often, people get absolutely nailed because of these kinds of arrangements. In some cases, they have had the wool pulled over their eyes and they may not fully understand what it is they are getting themselves into. We have a responsibility to ensure that financial education and financial literacy are a priority. I confirm Labour Party support for the Bill, which we hope can be further strengthened on Committee Stage. We would like to see it speedily enacted to make sure those with outstanding PCP debt and those who engage in these types of arrangements in future are given the best protection they can possibly have.

I reiterate much of what has already been said, particularly by my colleagues, Deputy Martin Kenny and Patricia Ryan. It has also been said by Deputy Nash. That is hands across the constituency but it might not continue. It is very difficult to speak against a consumer protection Bill. In fairness, most people have dealt with the dangers of personal contract plans. These are something that, no pun intended, have absolutely ballooned since 2014 when records were kept. We are now speaking about credit of approximately €1.7 billion. The difficulty is PCPs can seem affordable to many people due to what look like affordable repayments at the beginning but the problem is it is all put to the end in a balloon payment. There are incredible difficulties. Any extra protections, and anything from the point of view of further auditing or protection provided by the Central Bank and others, are fully required.

We accept the protection with regard to the limit of 23% for the annual percentage rate, particularly with regard to these types of hire purchase arrangements. A serious difficulty with the Bill is the fact that it does not deal with moneylenders. We all know the issues with moneylenders as we hear them in our constituency offices. If we were in a different period of time canvassing it would be coming up. I add my voice to the fact we will need to look at some of these pieces on Committee Stage. We could also possibly look at Deputy Doherty's legislation on moneylenders. It is absolutely necessary. There are protections in this and we just need to strengthen them.

Seeing as I have the Minister of State here, it would be remiss of me not to raise another issue. The answers to these questions are pertinent and take precedence but I have had a number of issues with regard to public liability insurance in the past fortnight. I will give the example of a community centre in my constituency that was charged €11,000 for its insurance payment for a year. Luckily there was an online funding campaign that delivered. We have dealt with the need for guidelines and for the Government to get more people into the market, particularly with regard to public liability insurance. We are now at a critical stage, particularly with regard to companies, community centres and businesses.

I draw attention to the fact that yet again Government speakers have failed to show. There was insistence that an extra slot be provided before the Social Democrats slot and we have another occasion when nobody has showed up. Perhaps the roster needs to be reviewed.

The Social Democrats are very happy to support the legislation. Our only criticism is that it is coming so late and has taken so long. We have known about this for many years. Many agencies and advocacy groups have drawn attention to the fact that the law in the area of protecting consumers in respect of indirect credit and personal contract plans has been very weak. Many recommendations have been made over the years to address this issue and it is only now we are getting around to doing so. It is welcome nonetheless.

Indirect credit is a growing issue. The prospect of being able to purchase something, and it can be anything from a pair of trousers to a fridge freezer, with what seems like a painless way of repaying the cost is very enticing for people, yet it ends up not been painless in terms of the type of interest rates charged and the fact people are not given sufficient time or advice to consider the wisdom of proceeding with such a purchase. Many people end up bitterly regretting having done this and there is not much protection for them.

We are seeing this increasingly from all types of stores, particularly with regard to online purchases. Harvey Norman, which sells all kinds of furniture, and other outlets such as DID Electrical and Compu b, have the same credit company, Humm, providing finance to them. It is incredible that we would have an entity providing such an enormous range and quantum of credit, and we can only imagine the scale of the sales of these three major companies, and that one credit company is not regulated by the Central Bank. It makes no sense whatsoever.

The promotion of this type of indirect credit is particularly enticing to people on low incomes who are not in a position to buy things outright. They might be taken in by the heavy marketing of products to be brought under this type of credit. Very often, it is those on the lowest incomes who end up having products that are repossessed or who are pursued, often relentlessly, by these credit companies. This is completely unacceptable. It is not before time that these indirect credit companies are brought under the remit of the Central Bank.

The other area covered by the legislation is personal contract plans. This is an area that has absolutely exploded in recent years. It has exploded in the context of the general public being very poorly informed about how PCPs operate. At the point when people are considering buying a car and the type of credit terms on which they buy it, PCPs seem very attractive but we know from surveys that a significant number of consumers do not understand the manner in which the PCP system operates. Very often, after making substantial repayments over the period of the agreement and taking care of the vehicle, they are shocked to discover the price they must pay to take ownership of the vehicle. It is not a good deal for people in the main. What is key is that people are so ill-informed about what is entailed. The PCP market is now worth close to €2 billion. It is absolutely enormous. I was interested to read a study done a few years ago by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

It was done in conjunction with the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, and it involved asking people to make decisions on PCP offers based on the available market advice. It was clear a very substantial number of people would not make sound financial decisions in that regard. The study also drew attention to the absence of clear, independent advice for consumers.

I very much support this Bill. It brings hire purchase finance and PCPs under the remit of the Central Bank. It requires providers of buy now, pay later credit to become entities regulated by the Central Bank. As part of the consumer protection code, this regulation will have to apply to people who avail of that kind of credit, particularly in regard to the suitability of the products for consumers and the ability of consumers to repay the loan. That is important. The Social Democrats support the legislation.

Debate adjourned.