Microsoft has sparked criticism for baking a "buy now, pay later" (BNPL) option into its Edge web browser, beginning in the US.
The option allows Edge to suggest a sponsored BNPL payment method when customers begin entering their card numbers into retail sites - even if specific sites do not offer it natively.
Microsoft has signed a deal with third-party BNPL company Zip (previously Quadpay) to feature the sign-up option on retail checkout pages at browser level, for any purchase Edge detects between $35 to $1000.
Think how a browser may suggest a previously-used credit card when paying currently. It's here some Edge users are now seeing Zip's BNPL offer advertised, with the ability to split payment into four instalments over six weeks.
Microsoft first announced these plans a couple of weeks ago for the development build of its browser, Microsoft Edge Canary. But, as of today, these changes are now arriving publicly, to anyone with Edge's v64 update.
"This is not a feature that should be native in any browser. It's unwanted bloat and an obvious cash grab," one user commented at the time. "Please reconsider and offer this as an extension if it needs to exist at all."
Criticism of the move has centred on the fact BNPL can cause issues for those who are tempted into a payment plan they cannot keep up with, and whose credit ratings can be damaged if a payment is missed.
Others have pointed to the fact Edge is provided with all copies of Windows 10 and 11 - meaning this change potentially affects billions of devices.
Microsoft added Buy Now Pay Later into Edge (and so Windows 10 and 11 base OS), a thing which is known to be abused to harm people.— Kevin Beaumont (@GossiTheDog) November 30, 2021
The tags on the post on Microsoft?s website say it all. Keep speaking out. pic.twitter.com/wsujv2VdWN
34% of people using BNPL miss at least 1 payment. They earn no positive credit, but can be reported to credit agencies for a default. This should not be built into and promoted by @microsoft software. https://t.co/WnZZglaelS— Libby Brown (@TruBluDevil) November 29, 2021
We've contacted Microsoft for more, and asked about its plans for a UK rollout. [UPDATE: Microsoft declined to comment further, but directed us to this FAQ page on the BNPL option which confirms it is only available in the US at present.]
Last year Microsoft partnered with BNPL firm Klarna in the UK for its Xbox All Access scheme, which let customers pre-order an Xbox Series X/S for a fixed monthly fee. In February, the UK's Financial Conduct Authority announced it would step in to regulate the growing BNPL sector following the publication of a critical report into BNPL practices.