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Britain cracks down on ‘buy now pay later’ firms

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Britain’s financial watchdog said on Monday it had told four ‘buy now pay later’ firms (BNPL) to change their contracts after identifying “potential harms” to consumers.

BNPL firms, which are unregulated, typically offer on-the-spot interest-free short-term loans that spread payments for retail goods like clothing.

The market more than trebled in size during 2020 to 2.7 billion pounds ($3.65 billion), when COVID-19 lockdowns saw more people struggling to make ends meet.

“The four firms involved, Clearpay, Klarna, Laybuy and Openpay, have fully cooperated with our work. We welcome their cooperation and their actions to address our concerns,” the Financial Conduct Authority said in a statement.

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While unable to regulate BNPL firms, the watchdog said it was able to use Britain’s consumer rights laws to make their contracts fairer, easier for consumers to understand and better reflect how they use them in practice.

Klarna said it had already implemented the FCA’s proposed changes.

“We have never received a customer complaint specifically related to our terms and conditions but are always open to ways in which they can be improved,” said Alex Marsh, Head of Klarna UK.

The watchdog said that all firms in the sector should comply with all requirements of consumer protection laws that apply to their business.

One of the terms that involved late payment fees has resulted in Clearpay, Laybuy and Openpay agreeing to voluntarily refund customers who have been charged such fees in specific circumstances, the FCA said

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Laybuy said it has worked hard to simplify its contract terms to make sure they are fair, transparent and easy to understand.

Clearpay said a very small group of customers may have incorrectly been charged a late fee, and it will automatically refund affected customers it is able to identify.

Openpay did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A review by former FCA acting CEO Christopher Woolard in February 2021 said BNPL can pose potential consumer harms that need to be addressed as soon as possible.

Britain’s finance ministry promised to bring forward legislation to regulate BNPL when parliamentary time allowed.

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StepChange, a charity which helps people cope with debt, said the FCA’s intervention was not a substitute for regulation to bring the sector under the watchdog’s rulebook.

The FCA said it will consult on rules for BNPL after the government has decided which firms and activities will be regulated.

($1 = 0.7400 pounds)

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Fidelity Bank Customers Lost N2.1bn As Fraud Cases Surge By 22.3%

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Theheute reports that Fidelity Bank Plc has suffered a whopping N2.1bn loss after the lender saw a surge in fraud and forgery cases in 2023.

This platform learned that an alleged fraud and forgery incidents rose by 22.2 per cent year-on-year from 2,518 recorded in 2022 to 3,079 in 2023, according to the bank’s financial statement.

The Central Bank of Nigeria and Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) Act 2006, mandates banks to render monthly returns of frauds and forgeries.

Sections 35 and 36 of NDIC Act 2006, also mandate banks to notify the corporation of any staff dismissed or whose appointment was terminated on accounts of fraud or financial irregularities.

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The books disclosed that the amount involved in fraud and forgerie cases rose by 279.6 per cent to N3.82bn by the end of 2023, up from N1bn held as the amount of fraud and forgery cases in 2022.

Aside from fraud incidents on naira accounts, the bank also reported fraud cases in foreign currency to the tune of $15,700, up from the $8,554 recorded in 2022.

According to the data, the actual loss on naira accounts was N2.1bn, rising by 783 per cent from the N237.2m recorded as an actual loss in the year 2022.

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However, the data showed that the actual loss as a result of fraud cases in foreign currency fell from $2,450 in 2022 to only $200 by the end of 2023.

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The bank did not record a loss in Euro compared to 2022 when the bank lost €100 due to fraud and forgery activities.

Fidelity Bank is not the only Nigerian bank that has reported fraud and forgery cases.

A 2023 report on fraud and forgeries in Nigerian banks showed that N5.79bn was lost in just the second quarter of 2023.

Despite the surge in fraud cases, the bank grew its gross earnings from N337.1bn in 2022 to N555.8bn by the end of 2023.

Profit after tax of the lender grew by 131.4 per cent from N53.7bn to N124.3bn while the net profit of the bank surged to N99.45bn, from the N46.7bn recorded in 2022.

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Fidelity Bank also grew its total assets base from N3.98bn recorded in 2022 to N6.2bn by the end of 2023.

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Chinese chamber denies barring Nigerian shoppers from Abuja supermarket

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The China General Chamber of Commerce in Nigeria has given insight into the operation of a Chinese supermarket within the premises of the Royal Choice Estate, Airport Road, Abuja.

Theheute reports that the Abuja-based Chinese supermarket had come under criticism for refusing to allow Nigerians to shop in its facility.

The supermarket situated at the China General Chamber of Commerce, along Umaru Musa Yar’Adua Road in Abuja, is acclaimed as a destination for Chinese cuisine and beverages.

Nigerians had expressed outrage over a discriminatory policy implemented by the Chinese Supermarket, which restricted entry exclusively to its citizens and barred Nigerians.

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But After Theheute reports, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission sealed the supermarket.

The FCCPC officials shut the supermarket when they stormed the premises on Monday. The commission’s officials sealed up the place after interrogating Nigerian workers at the supermarket.

But reacting to the alleged discrimination in a statement by its Secretary, Mr. Cui Guangzheng, the China Chamber of Commerce explained that the estate housing both the supermarket and the commerce building was not entirely a supermarket.

He clarified that the Royal Choice Estate comprises an office complex and residential apartments.

According to the statement, the residential area of the estate consists of private residents who adhere to security protocols in granting access to external visitors.

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“The China Chamber of Commerce is one of several enterprises using the facility, and the supermarket in question is located in the residential area of the estate, which is unrelated to the China Chamber of Commerce in Nigeria,” the statement read.

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It added, “No individual was subjected to discrimination or denied access to the estate or supermarket to purchase groceries as widely believed.

“The China General Chamber of Commerce emphasized its commitment to equality and inclusiveness and welcomed first-hand visits to witness the truth.

“Our principles are to enhance friendship between the people of both countries and promote economic development.”

The chamber expressed regret over the altercation at the estate’s entrance gate between the security personnel and a customer, emphasizing that it does not reflect the official position of the estate management or the chamber of commerce.

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FG to execute $3.8bn gas supply agreement in May

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The Gas Supply and Purchase Agreement to support the Final Investment Decision for the $3.8bn Brass methanol project is to be executed in May 2024, the Federal Government announced on Monday.

The Brass methanol project is a major industrial project being built in Bayelsa State to produce methanol, a key industrial chemical, using natural gas resources. Nigeria currently imports all its methanol.

Located in Brass Island, Bayelsa, the facility is to have a capacity of 10,000 tonnes of methanol per day when completed, as it is still under construction and expected to be operational this year.

The $3.8bn is to create up to 15,000 jobs during construction and aims to boost the Nigerian economy by reducing reliance on imports.

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This project is a joint venture between DSV Engineering Limited, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, and the Nigerian Content Development & Monitoring Board.

The Minister of State Petroleum Resources (Gas), Ekperikpe Ekpo, announced the execution date for the gas supply agreement in Abuja on Wednesday after a meeting with key stakeholders of the project in his office.

Ekpo, in a statement issued by his media aide, Louis Ibah, said the meeting was to confirm adequate gas supply to the Brass methanol project by the NNPC/Shell/TotalEnergies/NAOC Joint Venture.

He said the meeting was to also determine the next steps to conclude and execute the GSPA and mature the phase-2 of gas supply to the project.

Present at the meeting were the Head of Joint Venture, Investment Management, NNPC Upstream Investment Management Services, Mr Olanrewaju Igandan; and Deputy Managing Director, Nigerian Agip Oil Company, Mr Richard Orianzi.

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Others include the Managing Director, Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria, Mr Osagie Okunbor; Managing Director of Brass Fertiliser and Petrochemical Ltd, Mr Ben Okoye, among others.

Ekpo informed the gathering of President Bola Tinubu’s strong interest in resolving issues relating to gas supply to the Brass methanol project.

According to the Minister, the President was passionate about the speedy kick-off of the project so that it could bring in the much needed Foreign Direct Iinvestment with attendant economic benefits to the country.

“Mr President is very passionate about this project and wants something positive to happen in respect of the Brass methanol project before the end of May this year,” Ekpo said.

The Brass methanol project is sponsored by Brass Fertiliser & Petrochemical Company Limited and it is made up of a gas processing plant, a methanol production and refining plant, product export facilities, among others.

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At the end of the meeting, Ekpo announced he had successfully resolved the GSPA issue and that it would be executed by May this year.

“The NNPC/SPDC JV partners are now fully committed to uninterrupted gas supply for the development of the Brass methanol project,” the gas minister stated.

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