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Saturday, 6 January 2018

Can You Use P2P Loans to Provide Finance To Others?

The FCA and others have become concerned that some people or firms may be borrowing money on peer-to-peer lending platforms and using that money to provide finance to others without being authorised to do so, rather than borrowing solely to finance their own activities. 

So the Treasury proposes to clarify when a person or business can borrow on a P2P lending platform without needing to be authorised to 'accept deposits' by amending the 'business test' for deposit-taking as explained here.

For the sake of argument, let's just accept that a 'loan' can be a "deposit"; that borrowing on a P2P lending platform can involving "accepting" a deposit; and no potential exemptions apply. The question is whether this is being done "by way of business".

The current test merely says that a borrower will not be 'accepting deposits by way of business' if the borrower doesn't hold himself out as accepting deposits on a day-to-day basis; and any deposits are accepted only on "particular occasions".

This is considered too vague to be helpful in the P2P lending context, so the government proposes to add a specific carve-out for the situation where:
  • the acceptance of deposits is facilitated by an authorised P2P lending platform;
  • the borrower is not a bank or 'credit institution' (as they are already in the business of accepting deposits) or other type of regulated person (who would need to add the permission to accept deposits);
  • the borrower is not carrying on the business of accepting deposits (which is obviously kind of circular, but another provision will say that if the borrower uses the capital or interest on the funds solely to finance other business activity carried on by the borrower (not a third party), this will be evidence that the borrower is not carrying on the business of accepting deposits);
  • the borrower does not hold himself out as accepting deposits on a day to day basis, other than as facilitated by the P2P lending platform.
The key element in the context of borrowing on a P2P lending platform is that the borrower's use of the loan proceeds is to finance that person or firm's own activities, as opposed to being used to provide finance to others.

Of course, this post is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.