Journal Article

Do consumers understand PCP car finance? An experimental investigation

September 30, 2018

Journal of Consumer Policy, Vol. 41, Issue 3September 2018, pp. 229–255

Personal contract purchase (PCP) plans are innovative and increasingly popular forms of car finance. PCPs are inherently more complex than established financing options. The present study used experimental behavioural science to explore consumers’ comprehension of PCP plans and scope for beneficial interventions. Choice tasks, product rating tasks, and multiple choice comprehension questions were deployed to measure the consistency of decision-making and explicit comprehension of the product. Disclosures and advice were varied across conditions. A representative sample (n = 100) of consumers was initially given information on PCP deals as typically disclosed by car dealers. Results revealed that understanding was poor. One quarter of participants performed below chance on multiple-choice comprehension questions. Participants were prone to inconsistencies and objective mistakes when deciding between and rating offers. Disclosures designed to improve processing of mileage and cost information had ambiguous effects. Consumer advice sheets improved comprehension and reduced mistakes, with advice containing a diagram outperforming advice containing only text. The findings raise consumer protection concerns and support improved advice and stronger regulation.