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Microsoft Edge integrating buy now, pay later is predatory and disappointing

Edge Dev Hero 2020 Newfeature
Edge Dev Hero 2020 Newfeature (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Microsoft recently started testing a buy now, pay later (BNPL) integration in its Edge browser. The feature, which is powered by Zip, allows online shoppers to spread purchases across four installments over a six-week period. It's caused backlash across the web, including critics calling the feature a "shameless cash grab." Count me among those critics, as I believe Microsoft's latest move is dangerous and predatory. It also sets a terrible precedent for the browser going forward.

The post announcing the feature now includes negative tags such as bloat, cashgrab, dirty, exploitive, and predatory. There are over 200 comments on that post, and many have expressed distaste for the BNPL feature on Twitter, Reddit, and across the web.

A bit about buy now, pay later loans

Zip Website

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

While some people would prefer a clean browsing experience free of monetary components, I haven't seen the same hatred toward Edge's coupon feature that has been displayed about BNPL. There are people that dislike it, of course, but it hasn't drawn the vitriol of buy now, pay later being built into the browser. I think that's because buy now, pay later companies are considered by many to be predatory.

Whereas a coupon feature lets people save money and doesn't cost consumers anything, buy now, pay later loans can get people into debt. In an ideal situation, anyone that used a BNPL service would be able to make all payments on time. That isn't the reality, though. In many cases, people overspend and get behind on payments. You may blame the consumer for that, but the truth is that Klarna, Zip, and other BNPL services encourage overspending.

There are BNPL options, including Zip Pay, that don't charge interest. There are, however, late fees for those that miss payments. Other options, including Zip Money, can charge extremely high interest rates.

Browswers shouldn't have ads

Edge Post Tags Bnpl

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Buy now, pay later functionality sparked a discussed about what belongs in a browser, but BNPL isn't just an issue because it's predatory.

Edge shouldn't have ads at all. BNPL may draw out critics, but the practice of baking services into the settings of a browser is wrong on several levels, including causing potential legal issues. Edge is built into Windows 11 and Windows 10. You can't easily uninstall it. Soon, Windows will have a BNPL integration built directly into the default browser that can't be easily removed. That's a red flag in my book, and I imagine there are legislators in Europe with similar feelings.

Extensions are already a thing

Zip Chrome Web Store

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The crux of many complaints about the Buy Now, Pay Later integration with Microsoft Edge is the fact that the feature is baked right into the app. While it is an optional feature, the choice to use it is directly within the settings menu of Edge. BNPL isn't a core functionality of navigating the web. Why have the feature directly integrated with the browser?

Modern browsers already have a way to deliver optional features, extensions. These have been around for a long time and seem to work just fine. In fact, Microsoft made a pretty big deal about the fact that the new Edge supports extensions from the Chrome Web Store. Microsoft has plenty of extensions available, including Microsoft Editor. Zip already has an extension in the Chrome Web Store that works in Microsoft Edge.

This isn't needed

Microsoft Edge Update Dev New2

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The strangest thing about this whole saga is that it's unnecessary. Microsoft worked hard to make Edge a good browser. After years of Internet Explorer memes and struggles with the older version of Edge, the company moved over to Chromium. This move was generally met with praise. Even tech enthusiasts complimented the browser.

After building up Edge, Microsoft appears determined to toss out any goodwill it acquired while making it one of the best Windows apps.

I'm not naïve, at least not enough to think Microsoft builds its browser out of the goodness of its heart. I'm aware that there are monetization opportunities within Edge, such as Bing search and advertising. I don't have the numbers that Microsoft has, but I predict that negative publicity about BNPL will cost Microsoft in the long run. It's already cost Microsoft part of its reputation. It's yet to be seen if it will affect the company's bottom line. I assume that if Microsoft starts losing money that this integration will go away.

Sean Endicott
Sean Endicott

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

63 Comments
  • As stated in the initial post about this, it's what Microsoft has become these days. Halo Infinite's monetization is outrageous and predatory too. The way they keep raising prices in their Surface line is absurd. I'm probably going to drop Edge, if they continue with this junk. If not enough people are willing to act on their being upset, it doesn't matter.
  • Halo's "monetization" is 100% optional and is only related to cosmetics. Personally I'm not even going to touch it, let alone pay for that. You describe it as if it was a mandatory thing.
  • It’s Keith. What did you expect?
    It’s a micro service, about 376 bytes in memory. It’s a proper storm in a tea cup this. You aren’t forced to use it. It’s just a convenience. The reaction is juvenile.
  • Very true. Good point. Haha.
  • I don't understand the passion with which people can oppose an optional feature. I don't like the feature. I'll disable it if it makes it to general release (isn't it only in DEV for feedback at this point?). But it's harmless. I respect that MS wants to find ways to monetize things that users choose to do. That it's optional is a good thing. Better than forced user monetization like Google and Facebook do to their users. On the other hand, my complaints about the Windows 11 Start menu in an unrelated article, those are important complaints! ;-)
  • It's not about it being optional. It's about it being built into the browser. Also, BNPL isn't harmless.
  • I vote with the mob on this one, but you make a good point about it only being in Dev for feedback at this point. Isn't this what Dev is for? I have no problem with MSFT launching trial balloons in Dev to gauge reaction. The reaction to Buy Now, Pay Later (by some) has been apoplectic. MSFT didn't come to your house and kick the dog; it's trying out something new and is gauging reaction. I can only see the vitriol if, after getting negative responses, they go ahead and put this into your browser turned on by default (and, yes, I'd rather not see it at all, as it's a bad idea to make it easier to get people to go in debt for what may be an impulse purchase). I actually don't mind the coupon feature, although I find it doesn't work as well as it should. It routinely tries to direct me to a different model of what I am shopping for. But, I find it well-meaning and harmless.
  • I loved your opening, "I vote with the mob on this one" :-) I think your point about MS deserving the vitriol IF they pushed this on everyone after getting all this negative feedback is spot on. In that case, I agree. Based on the current reaction, as childishly over the top as it has been, it would be a mistake for MS to proceed with this feature.
  • The response is totally out of whack with the impact. It’s entirely optional. Makes me laugh (it’s bloat)
    When most of the people complaining will have 149Gb of Fortnite installed. 389 games in their Steam library and have 59 tabs in Edge (sic) open. A few more bytes, whoopeee doooo. It was complete nerd rage. Most only piggybacking on the prevailing sentiment.
  • Adults... It's an adults responsibility to manage their finances, not anyone else's. This feature could potentially help someone in a bind. If misused it's the individuals fault. This is optional.
  • Exactly. Well said Rodneyej. I'm sure some of the people here and on the internet that are upset at MS, also preach about personal responsibility on a daily basis. How is different than Microsoft offering All Access plans on its products?
  • Yes but we must do what we can to protect stupid idiots. Don’t you know about reverse Darwinism?
  • Rodneye, thank you! Perfectly said!!
  • I agree. It's an idiotic move Microsoft. It puts vulnerable people in the firing and is a complete shame they are profiting from this.
  • Thanks Sean, this is an important article. I know a lot of people are arguing about individual responsibility, but at some point predatory advertising becomes a societal problem. Building in features that encourage vulnerable people to take on additional debt with limited oversight is over that line in my book. If people are responsible, they will make their own budgets and seek out credit for things they need or want; but shoving credit options in their face to encourage impulse buying is irresponsible on Microsoft's part.
  • Advertising can not be predatory if it's just truthfully promoting an option to an adult. To be predatory, it must either be dishonest or targeting children for things that children are not legally allowed to buy or use. One could also argue that targeting advertising for addictive products or services directly to those addicts is also predatory. Offering a service that spreads out spending without charging interest is not remotely any of those and is definitively not predatory. More damage is done in efforts to protect those we believe are weak than in just letting them make decisions for themselves.
  • You discussed promoting things to addicts as being potentially predatory but then didn't equate it to this situation.
  • Sean, right, because a general audience is not remotely the same as ads targeting addicts. Budweiser advertises on TV. There are alcoholics who watch TV. Nevertheless, this is OK because it's a general audience. If they placed ads at AA meetings, that world be a different story. Otherwise, it would never be ok to promote valid products and services that could have a downside to some viewers of the ad.
  • Sean just doesn’t like it. Perhaps a previous sufferer of debt?
    Seems like a very personal response this article. Makes uncomfortable reading. When we have real problems to deal with.
  • Personally, I've avoided debt as much as possible, though I admit I have a mortgage and a modest car loan. I don't have any credit cards though. My main issue with this is that the feature is built into the browser. Zip and other companies can have extensions for browsers. People can then seek them out to download them. I don't think it's the role of a browser to promote features like BNPL.
  • Predatory? Utterly ridiculous! You should be ashamed of such a headline.
  • Yeah. It’s embarrassing
  • I think calling it predatory is a stretch. Especially when it's a zero interest short-term "loan." It's like saying home loans, car loans, student loans, etc. are predatory just because they exist. When used responsibly, consumers can benefit greatly from these financial products. Consumers need to inform themselves before they agree to any financial arrangement. Any financial instrument can hurt a consumer if not used responsibly. We should put the onus on consumers to make informed decisions and for providers to be transparent about their service/product offerings. Just my two cents.
  • Agreed. Worse, there's something demeaning in assuming people need to be protected from themselves. It's suggesting that they're too stupid to manage their own money.
  • Agreed. There is such a thing as predatory lending and borrowers do need to be protected from it. But there's no evidence (at least, none presented here) that that's what's going on here.
  • I guess the question is what level of vetting takes place on purchases made with BNPL is comparison to other forms of loans and what proportion of people can't pay within the prescribed period. If it's zero-interest then the companies offering it must be making their money some other way. If they rely on a particular proportion of their customers missing the payment threshold and having to pay a penalty as a result then that is predatory, because they know that those people will be the least able to afford it. I do know that it is much easier to get this sort of "loan" than it is many others, meaning those who can't afford them will be more likely to have them granted and then default. I don't know whether or not they do make their money specifically from people who do default.
  • BNPL charge fees to the business providing the service, that's where they get the majority of their income. Some charge as much as 10% of the purchase price.
  • John, as Sin Ogaris nailed it, I'll just add to his point: these services, including credit cards, make money on the transaction from the business. They don't need anyone to ever pay late to make money (though that can be an additional source of revenue for them). For example, when you pay for something with a credit card, Visa, Master Card, Discover, and Amex charge about 1%. The issuing banks charge another ~1%. The processer adds a bit more. This is why cards can afford to give rewards for purchases, coming from their fees. Businesses happily pay this fee for a few reasons: 1. More customers. Some customers now only buy things with credit cards, so supporting them grants access to those customers. 2. Guaranteed payment. Even checks don't always clear. When paying by credit card, the backing companies ensure the business gets paid, even if it's a fraudulent transaction. 3. For websites, other than PayPal, it's the only way to handle remote transactions. 4. For high-traffic physical retail locations, speed, reducing waiting lines or number of cashiers needed. For BNPL services, #4 doesn't apply, but the others do.
  • "You may blame the consumer for that, but the truth is that Klarna, Zip, and other BNPL services encourage overspending." Based on what? You're just claiming this with no backup. What is "overspending" here? How do you know it's excessive? The democratization of credit is one of the goals of policymakers around the world for a reason. That's what microcredit plans in poor countries are about, and one of the reasons India reformed its banking system. We want people of all walks of life to be able to borrow. Borrowing is a very basic function of the economy, but for most of history has been relegated to richer people (because they have lots of collateral to put up). Credit is how companies are built, and how individuals, companies and governments manage large purchases and weather crises. Giving credit to relatively poor people is not some nefarious plan. It's a good thing. Relatively poorer people aren't allowed to borrow enough, and this could be one solution. And we have all this skepticism for consumer credit, but where's the skepticism when it comes to crypto? Ever month WC puts out an article about which GPU's to buy for mining, and how some billionaire thinks it's the future (when on close read they didn't really say that). Poor people borrowing bad, vaporware currency good?
  • Exactly! Here in Argentina we are in a long time economic crisis (caused by corrupt government and absurd leftist policies, but that's a different issue). Buying in installments is a necessity for most. And most stores don't even offer interest-free installments. It's a rare thing. Do people get into debt? Of course, exactly like anywhere in the world. That's up to the individual, to manage personal finances.
    But having an option to buy everything in installments with no interests would be a blessing here. I wouldn't consider it predatory at all and saying it's predatory implies underestimating people and robbing them of options that let them decide. For good or worse, freedom is like that. It also implies responsibility for your acts.
  • Nicely said, Andrew. Yes, of course, some people can and will abuse it or get into financial trouble. But the solution to that is not to deny people access to credit, because some will abuse it. That would be like banning drinking or cars or sports, all of which can cause injury or worse on occasion.
  • I sense a conflict of interest here. There are more ads and more affiliate links on this website trying to convince me to go into debt than anything in Edge itself. I think consumerism has run amok for sure and whether we like it or not, this website is the epitome of indulgent consumerism so with that said, I find these new micro finance systems to be amazing and much much better than preditory credit systems of yesteryear. It used to be you got stuck with store cards to get favorable terms. Need a new fridge? You used to put that on a sears card if you needed credit. Now, not so much. Can just use an app on yoru phone and get terms your comfortable with and not need to open a new line of credit. I've used the paypal pay in 4 quite a bit and its 0% APR.. There's no major reason for me to use pay in 4, it's just easy terms that spreads things out. Go back to that fridge analogy, and it's much easier to buy a decent fridge in 4 split payments on the cash flow and its more flexible than high interest debt and sometimes it gives you buying power you may not have had that can actually save money. Debt isn't the problem, it's unfair debt that is. Giving same as cash payment to everyone is a HUGE boon for the low wage earners that were plagued by predatory debt. Wealthy people get debt at less than inflation rate in todays dollars... these payment split systems give that to more people and that's a good thing to help them stay ahead. But again, i wish we weren't such a consumeristic society to begin with.. but lol at windowscentral all the sudden having consumer ethics opinions.
  • You know, I hadn't thought of it that way and I am a great example of it. Over the past week I probably hit this website over 50 times just to see the deals on crap that I really don't need. Most of the time it was exactly the same as when I last checked an hour ago. Granted I was also looking for tech for others too, but I am part of the problem.
  • Editorials run independently of anything else on the site.
  • And....editorials run on this site. So Independent? I don't think so. Sorta, maybe, kinda, at best. Not that I'm against Window Central needing to monetize to pay your (Sean's) salary, and Dan's. and Zac's! I'm grateful for the services this site offers.
  • Indeed. Capitalism is a good thing. A very, very good thing.
  • So, you're implying adults can't make up thier own minds? Windows central more like Windows complaining. Man, the negative writers get old.
  • I recommend you check out a wider variety of our content. Several of our pieces are positive, including those sharing excitement about Windows 11 and many hardware and software reviews. There are, however, negative things worth talking about as well.
  • It's like Chris Rock said. Drug dealers don't sell drugs, they offer drugs. To people who aren't interested in drugs you can easily ignore it, no problem. You have a choice, right, and you choose to pass... ...but for people who have a DRUG PROBLEM, that's tantamount to endorsing and encouraging their addiction, And making a buck off of their demise. No Microsoft! That's a bad, bad Microsoft!
  • Drug dealers are a bad example, because what they're doing is illegal (unless you're including pharmacies and hospitals). At least pick a legal activity. A good parallel would be the ads for sports betting sites (Fanduel) or beer on TV. Those ads are acceptable to the FCC because they're to a general audience, not targeting gambling or alcohol addicts.
  • "Surface Laptop Studio goes for $1,499 in deal you can't afford (to miss?)" This is a news article from right here at windowscentral.com. Really guys? Really? Cash grab is what this site is for! (Now at least) Just like IGN.... At least half of the news articles now a days are for things for sale, things that you are NOT advertising here for us to save money, but for windwoscentral.com getting a slice of the pie each time we click on the link from this website and finish buying the product. You should be ashamed man... Talk about hypocrisy...
  • Editorials are separate from other content.
  • Just because it's separate doesn't make it right. I understand completely the need for web sites to have a business model to generate revenues so they can continue to operate and grow. The key is to offer responsible ads that are not repulsive (I've seen my fair share of toenail fungus ads here) and are written in a way that says, "This is a good deal" rather than "You've got to be a moron to pass up this!". The latter adds editorial into marketing, and that's not ideal.
  • 100% agreed. The power to change all of that... lies higher. Ideally, it wouldn't and each and every one of us would be the change we want to see in the world (or, the web, in this instance), but that sort of thing and maintaining employment don't get along well.
  • Really?! You seem to be doing some exceptional intellectual gymnastic to say "editorials are separate from other content" (with advertising). You get paid right? That comes from ads on "other content." Not to put too fine a point on the obvious, but on your very own editorial, you have links to articles with commissions for WindowsCentral. Nothing wrong with that, but for you to say you float above and independent? That's take some gall.
  • My point is that an editorial on the site can argue an opinion that differs from other elements of the website. For example, WC could, a has, had pieces saying why people shouldn't shop on Black Friday.
  • FJEJE is just saying your position is ironic. You don't see that? Then fine. And sure, you can publish all the editorials that they will let you. But IMHO, this one was out there.
  • I didn't say it wasn't ironic. I wrote deal posts on the site like just about everyone on our staff did over Black Friday weekend. While I try to make sure the deals I recommend are actually good discounts etc (price checking, comparing to similar deals), I understand that there's an irony to me writing this editorial. That being said, I still don't think it's the role of a browser to promote BNPL with a built-in feature. Companies can have extensions, as those allow interested shoppers to seek them out.
  • Ha. You need to monetize, and Microsoft needs to monetize. (You don't think you deserve these products for free, do you?) You say yours is fine and Microsoft's is predatory. Fine. But we're not stupid. More than half your posts in the last 10 days say this.... "We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more." And you say you are independent in your articles. (Wait, you say you "try.") Really? Measured by what? All I'm saying is somewhere along the line, someone says either.
    * "If I write this article about your product and put in links, will you pay me." or
    * or "If we pay you, will you write an article about our product and put in links." Just saying.
  • I can guarantee that I have never said either of the following to anyone: "If I write this article about your product and put in links, will you pay me?" or or "If we pay you, will you write an article about our product and put in links."
  • Ha! Not believable. You guys need to monetize. Or should I word-smith your "I have never....", as in you never said it, but WC set it up on your behalf? Come on, man. We're adult. We get it. Somewhere somehow somebody is sending you money. And you have an agreement about that. What's that agreement say?
  • Captain_Eric, I don't really have a problem with the BNPL feature (though I don't care for it and would disable it), and I do think the irony is a amusing with the ads on this page monetizing traffic in an article effectively criticizing MS for doing that. HOWEVER, I'm with Sean that there's a BIG DIFFERENCE between including links that can generate commission revenue if they lead to purchases, and selling an opinion by writing a positive review due to ads, or a negative review of a competing product for the same reason. Those are really very, very different things. I have never seen anything here on Windows Central that suggests these guys' opinions are for sale. "Try" is a good honest acknowledgement that all of us can be be subconciously steered by kindness of vendors, but that at Windows Central they do their best to avoid and minimize those influences. It's why many companies have policies about not excepting Christmas cookies or free lunches from vendors, as a form of a kickback. I disagree with Sean's point in this article, but respect his position and have no reason to question his integrity.
  • Well, first, I'd like to see the agreements between Windows Central and the people they link to before I speculate. These articles with the links that get them a commission, oops "may" get a commission don't appear out of thin air. Seems to me, Microsoft recommending FIT is akin to Sean recommending a product, via a link. But the point is, everyone needs to monetize. And this is a tiny issue. Just disable it, that is, if Microsoft even goes forward with it. And I'm not questioning his integrity. He seems like a nice idealist. He really wants to protect people from getting in financial problems, but he just goes too far. People don't need such protection. He might have a side agenda too: The dollar sign "$" in Microsoft, well, makes him appear, I don't know, naive. Microsoft is simply monetizing. Nothing wrong with that.
  • "While some people would prefer a clean browsing experience free of monetary components, I haven't seen the same hatred toward Edge's coupon feature that has been displayed about BNPL. There are people that dislike it, of course, but it hasn't drawn the vitriol of buy now, pay later being built into the browser. I think that's because buy now, pay later companies are considered by many to be predatory." I think that this is true and it demonstrates that many (most?) of the arguments against this feature are bogus. Most complaints I've seen are about bloat but, if this was the case, you'd see the same level of complaints for features like coupons. Either people haven't complained about coupons because they like the feature and thus don't consider it bloat, which is arbitrary, or they are really complaining about BNPL for a different reason. If they have a different reason that's fine but that they don't lead with that reason indicates that they are not making a reasoned argument. That there is a reasoned argument to be made doesn't let those people off the hook.
  • An option that lets people buy in installments, without interests???? That's not a predatory feature, that's an outright gift. At worse, it's exactly the same as advertisment and works within a consumer society like ours. People are going to want to buy things, companies are going to want people to buy things and do a lot of things to encourage it. Some legal but morally questionable even. That's capitalism. But in the end it's all about individual responsibility. Nobody is forcing you to buy anything, certainly Microsoft isn't.
  • The only people that should be worried about BNPL is credit card companies and banks. Which is why, surprise surprise, even some banks now are providing BNPL services. Also as someone who uses Zip Money (not Zip Pay) I have never paid interest in the four years I've had an account. I pay a $6 monthly fee. But that's still cheaper that the $80 a year I was paying for a credit card. And that fee only applies if I have money outstanding, if my balance is full then there are no charges.
  • Yeah, on other sites, some of the just crazy threats to abandon MS over this were so over the top that I wondered if they were actually coming from competing BNPL services.
  • There is something unappealing about self-righteous indignation over small matters of no consequence. And worse, a person who says they are helping people who wouldn’t know better and would be taken advantage of. (The latter, seems to me, is a person who thinks they are smarter, more worldly, more common sense, aka BETTER than other people. That takes confidence, or something!). Me? I imagine there is another agenda here, unwritten. Heck if I know what it is. But this piece is out there. Anyway:
    People aren't' stupid.
    It's optional.
    It's in testing.
    We'll see what Microsoft does.
  • Protecting people from themselves is rarely acceptable. It simply deprives people of making choices and taking risks, some of which will yield great enjoyment or rewards. If I want to spend all my money at the bar, maim myself skiing or sky diving, risk and lose my house to start a business, or pawn my antique pocket watch to buy combs my wife admired for her beautiful hair (only to learn on Christmas morning that she sold her hair to be able to buy me a chain for my pocket watch), then those should all be options available to me.
  • Fun, unexpected holiday reference. Cheers!
  • Nod to O. Henry. Most touching story I had to read in High School. :-) Romeo and Juliet and Jack London's "To Build a Fire" still stand out too.
  • They have a great extension called Microsoft Shopping Assistant, which would be the perfect place for a feature like this one.
    Anyway, it's optional and doesn't affect core features...
  • It can be turned off, but if they keep with this mindset the browser is just going to get more and more bloated. Why not make it a extension I can completely remove. Not just this buy now pay latter thing, but the whole shopping stuff. It's very annoying. When it got added it quickly got on my nerves constantly popping up these graphs of prices, and in one case even got in the way of the darn checkout button on the site. Of course I easily turned it off, but it's not a direction I like to see Edge going in. Feature bloat seems to be starting to creep its way into Edge. And this buy now pay later integration is scummy, when Microsoft was asked if they get a kickback or benefit financially in anyway from integrating it into the browser they just said "no comment" which we all know means yes, they just don't wanna come out and say it because they know it makes them look bad. Between this kind of stuff, and the fact they made it much more of a PIA to change default browsers in Windows 11 compared to Windows 10 (yet Edge can change its self-back to the default if you click yes when it asks you to with one click). The whole system of having to go to default apps, click the app like say firefox then one by one change every file type/protocol the app can handle to firefox (or whatever browser besides edge you wanna use). Them forcing it on people like that has the complete opposite effect on me. Makes me not want to use it. I've loved Edge since it's beta came out, but I really hope to see them stop going down this road. It all mainly comes back to pushing bing searches as hard as possible. Like how anytime the browser gets a major release I get that "you should be using Microsoft optimal settings" box which just wants to change my search engine to Bing. And of course you can't set your new tab page to what you want either, that helps MS claim traffic to the Bing website is up.