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Klarna commits to transparency on customer debt as it ponders public listing

·3-min read

The boss of Klarna has pledged to publish figures on how many UK customers are referred to debt collection agencies by his firm as it eyes a potential public listing.

Speaking to the PA news agency, buy-now-pay-later boss Sebastian Siemiatkowski said he would mirror recent disclosures that the company had made in his native Sweden.

He also said that potential rule changes designed to attract companies to list in the UK, which would allow founders to keep better control under dual-class structures, could make the London Stock Exchange more attractive to Klarna.

“At least for me as a co-founder, the idea of being able to have dual classes is obviously one that I know a lot of businesses and founders care about,” Mr Siemiatkowski said.

Relaxing rules about the number of shares that need to be sold when a company lists in London – the so-called free float – could encourage the company to choose a UK listing.

Yet while an initial public offering (IPO) may be “the natural next step for the company,” it is not imminent. And other locations could be chosen, including the US.

“We’re not doing it right now, but it’s not like it’s unthinkable that it would happen within a year or two.”

If it lists, Klarna is likely to face questions about its future, as UK authorities look set to introduce stricter regulation in its sector.

In order to allay fears in Sweden, Klarna published a slew of data two weeks ago, including trends on reminders it had sent to customers, and the number of customers who were referred to the country’s official debt collection agency.

The data also broke down debt collection referrals by age group, showing that men aged 18 to 25 were most likely to be referred to the debt collectors.

Mr Siemiatkowski said that Klarna wants to publish the same information in the UK

“We have that ambition, it’s just ongoing work,” he said.

“That level of transparency is what builds trust.

“The traditional way of doing trust is to put a white man in a marble office with a suit and then try to sound very complex and hard to understand,” the T-shirt wearing boss said from his London hotel room where he had been quarantining after arriving from abroad.

Klarna allows customers to buy items on one of its partners’ websites, which include ASOS and Gymshark, but wait 30 days before paying.

The company does not charge customers any interest for that and customers are not subject to late fees. Instead, the company makes money by taking a slice of the action from the retailer.

Although they come with no interest, consumer champions Citizens Advice have warned that such schemes can be a “slippery slope into debt”.

Mr Siemiatkowski said that he supports regulation, but said there are “a lot of misconceptions” in the UK, including comparisons to payday lenders, which he said was the company’s fault for not communicating well enough.

He called for “outcome-based regulation” which favours better types of credit – such as Klarna, he claimed – over worse forms, including credit cards.

The regulation Mr Siemiatkowski favours would look at how many customers fall into debt, and how expensive credit is.

“What you need is you both need competition and protection of the consumer. And that can be accomplished by not being restrictive and saying, you have to ask this question or do this and that, but by saying your losses cannot be higher than this, or the amount of people that fall into debt or your prices cannot be more expensive than this,” he said.

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