Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with the Axios AM and PM newsletters. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to the Axios Closer newsletter for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with the Axios Sports newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Des Moines newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The buy now, pay later (BNPL) industry — an increasingly important driver of retail sales — could face new rules as D.C. scrutiny builds.

Driving the news: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is peering into the policies of Affirm, Afterpay, Klarna, PayPal and Zip — a few of the most notable players in the BNPL industry..

  • The move comes after half a dozen lawmakers, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) called on the agency to review BNPL services.

Why it matters: The CFPB is concerned these platforms may encourage overspending and dodge existing regulations around credit and lending. It also plans to examine data collection practices.

  • Billions of investor dollars are potentially at stake: Just last year, Square (now Block) paid about $29 billion to buy Afterpay.

The review is "a first step toward having a full picture of the BNPL market," Laura Udis, the CFPB's small dollar, marketplace and installment lending program manager, tells Axios.

How it works: Consumers can qualify and get approved for BNPL purchases much faster than for a new credit card, and they can take home the product before fully paying it off — typically through installments with little to no interest or fees.

  • Like credit card companies, BNPL platforms charge stores a percentage or flat fee for each sale.

State of play: Major retailers like Walmart, Target, Amazon, Nike and Nordstrom, as well as a growing number of smaller businesses, offer BNPL as a way to break up purchases into multiple installments.

  • The payment option has helped drive $97 billion in e-commerce sales in 2020, according to research from payments giant Worldpay — and it’s growing fast. The same study estimates BNPL will grow from 2.1% of 2020 global e-commerce transactions to 4.2% by 2024. 
  • Retailers can see their average ticket sizes increase between 30% and 50% when the option is offered, according to RBC Capital Markets, CNBC reported.

At this stage, the CFPB is requesting data (due March 1) to better understand the benefits and downsides of this fast-growing model, for which public data is scant since many of the providers are privately owned.

The big question: How the agency acts on this information — though that could take months or even years to materialize.

  • "It is certainly possible that we could as a result of the data collection take enforcement action. … We might issue advisories or guidelines, but that’s really premature and sort of putting the cart before the horse," says Udis.

What they’re saying: BNPL companies say they are prepared to work with regulators.

  • “We believe proportionate regulation is a good thing,” a representative for Klarna wrote in an email. Affirm, Afterpay, Zip and PayPal each echoed the sentiment when reached for comment.
  • It's also worth noting that Klarna hired lobbyists from Cypress Advocacy and Forbes-Tate Partners, per mid-December disclosures — signaling they plan to play a proactive role in crafting any potential regulation.

The big picture: This is a balancing act, as always, between innovation and regulation.

  • Currently, BNPL providers aren't regulated as heavily as credit cards. The CFPB also warns that some BNPL loans may not have the same consumer protections around fraud disputes as their more well-worn brethren.
  • The CFPB's move comes at a time when the agency has shown that it has more teeth than it did under President Trump.

The bottom line: The CFPB is signaling that BNPL is not flying under the radar.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to state that BNPL drove $97 billion in e-commerce sales in 2020 (not last year).

Go deeper

Updated 9 mins ago - Economy & Business

Hybrid work now dominates the knowledge economy

llustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, most knowledge workers are in hybrid work arrangements, partly remote and partly in-office, a new survey finds.

By the numbers: 58% said they now work this way, in a survey of around 10,000 knowledge workers from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Japan, conducted last November by Future Forum, a research group backed by Slack.

Rents hit all-time high

Data: Zumper; Chart: Axios Visuals

The national median price of a one-bedroom rental apartment in January was up 12% year-over-year, to $1,374 — an all-time high, per Zumper, an online apartment rental site.

Why it matters: Inflation is taking a bigger bite out of people's paychecks these days not only in food and gasoline, but also in housing costs.

A pandemic victim: Ethical supply chains

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Over the last decade, global companies have put in place elaborate policies to ensure their suppliers protect worker safety and human rights. They're struggling to comply with those policies in the pandemic.

Driving the news: COVID-era disruptions have caused a spike in noncompliance with health and safety rules, according to new data from Qima, which audits supply chains.