Temu – bargain hunting and criminal records

“Temu: Shop like billionaires” is currently the number 1 shopping app in the iPhone App Store. The online shop Temu also advertises its shop website extensively on social media and via website advertising banners. The lure is with lowest prices, free shipping and supposedly very good reviews for the shop and products.

But if you take a closer look, behind this glittering shopping world you will find numerous abysses - a lack of liability, inadequate device security, stolen product designs, inadequate data protection, a lack of sustainability and, in the worst case, the delinquency of users. You can find a breakdown here.

Temu advertises cheap products that are advertised using attractive product images and discount information. There is also a countdown for free shipping (which is simply reset when it expires). But what is Temu? And maybe it's better to stay away from it?
Temu advertises cheap products that are advertised using attractive product images and discount information. There is also a countdown for free shipping (which is simply reset when it expires). But what is Temu? And maybe it's better to stay away from it?

Temu: Become number 1 through aggressive advertising

Admittedly, Temu is not a new online shop and we are not the first to report about it. However, the topic has been on both Jens' and my list for some time - and for very different reasons. Here I would like to summarize the various arguments why you should stay away from the Temu Shop.

It should be noted that the people who fall for the shop's omnipresent advertising often don't know any better. Young people in particular who want to afford something with their pocket money can be vulnerable here. But all other bargain hunters who perhaps don't have the money for the original branded products also fall for the Temu scam.

So it's no wonder that the Temu app, which was launched in this country in April 2023, has been leading the list of shopping apps on smartphones for some time now. Here you can quickly and easily search for specific products, be inspired by the numerous offers and promotions and order a variety of cheap products with a small budget.

What is Temu?

Temu is an online marketplace that serves as a sales platform for primarily Chinese manufacturers. Temu was founded in the USA in 2022 as a subsidiary of the Chinese company Pinduoduo (PDD Holdings Inc.), founded in 2015. While Temu is officially based in Boston, Massachusetts, the parent company is based in Shanghai, China. Temu is listed and traded on New York's Nasdaq. 

Temu does not maintain its own warehouse and does not ship any products itself. The website and the app only function as a communication platform between the (mostly Chinese) manufacturers of the (cheap) products and the buyers. The expansion to the European market took place in early 2023. The companies selling on Temu benefit from a “universal postal agreement” that (theoretically) makes parcels worth up to 150 euros duty-free.

Is Temu serious?

If you look at Temu as a pure sales platform where supply and demand come together and purchase contracts are concluded, then you can be tempted to describe it as reputable. At least it's not a fake shop. Below we take a closer look at this online marketplace and some of the sometimes even criminal backgrounds. When it comes to copyright, device security, compliance with standards, the general terms and conditions and data protection, then you have to say: No, Temu and some of the manufacturing companies trading there are not reputable.

Temu doesn't care if the products even exist

The above definition as a pure marketplace for the exchange of information between providers and buyers can be found in the Temu General Terms and Conditions under point 2.1. But you shouldn't stop reading there. Because under 2.2 it is noted that “Taxes, customs duties or the applicability of consumer protection regulations“can arise. The latter means that customs can retain the ordered goods if they do not meet EU standards.

Point 2.3 of the Temu General Terms and Conditions is equally important. There it says, among other things, about the products on offer: “We have no control over and do not guarantee the existence, quality, safety, suitability or legality of the Products or the truthfulness, accuracy or legality of the information contained in the Product listings or other information provided by Sellers or other users".

Temus therefore does not check whether the products even exist, whether they are safe, whether they meet the requirements of the target market or whether they are suitable for the advertised task. So Temu cannot be prosecuted if you order the “brightest flashlight in the world” and get a broken string of lights instead. And the many 5-star reviews? Temu doesn't care if they're fake.

Temu wants to protect itself on the subject of health damage in point 2.5 of the General Terms and Conditions: “Please check carefully [sic!] all descriptions and limitations regarding the product [...] If you have special circumstances [...] that may affect or be affected by the product you wish to purchase, it is your sole responsibility to inform the seller before placing your order with the seller.“ – Have fun with the language barrier at this point!

Can you commit a criminal offense if you buy on Temu?

Yes, under certain circumstances purchasing from Temu may result in criminal penalties. If you order e.g. B. If you have goods with a total value of over 150 euros and would therefore have to pay customs duty, it may well happen that Temu does not combine the products but sends them in several individual packages. The aim is to stay below the customs limit. However, if the customs office notices this, attempted fraud can be punished. In the simplest case, you then have to pay at least the customs costs of the combined goods values.

You also have to pay attention to product design and safety instructions (keyword “CE mark”). If it is clear plagiarism (e.g. a cheap copy of the Apple Watch or Apple AirPods) or if forbidden symbols/signs are depicted on the product, this can also be punishable - but honestly, anyone who orders Nazi symbols should do so be prosecuted. And as mentioned above, products may be sent that you never ordered; other colors, other shapes, other patterns, completely different items.

A large order, such as several SD cards for devices used at home or a collective order of cheap smartwatches for friends, can quickly lead to criminal charges. If it is plagiarism, stolen designs or copied brand names and logos, then if you order several copies you can be accused of wanting to trade with them. And plagiarism is a punishable offence.

Here is one Video with legal details, which also clarifies how Temu organizes itself, e.g. B. makes it punishable by unfair competition:

Liability for any damage caused lies with the buyer

An important point noted in the video embedded above is liability for damage caused by the product. The example given is a cheap toaster that starts a fire. If the house burns down as a result, the toaster manufacturer would usually be liable. However, if you buy the toaster from China, you are considered an importer. And in this role you yourself are liable. If you perhaps even gave the toaster as a gift and the recipient's house burns down, you cannot pass on the liability to the Chinese manufacturer, but you are liable yourself.

Possible but expensive: returning incorrect or damaged products

Another important note concerns point 12 of the Temu Terms and Conditions entitled “Refunds, exchanges and similar”. It is noted there that Temu can issue refunds. But there is the following disclaimer: “Unless otherwise described in the Returns and Refunds Policy, the refund does not cover any duties, taxes or return shipping costs that you may incur as part of the refund process."

So if the product had to be sent back to China, you would definitely think twice about whether it was worth it. The 5 euro sweater sent in the wrong color or the broken bracelet of the 10 euro smartwatch may not be worth the shipping costs or the communication effort with language barriers. So you tend to decide against returning the goods, the money stays with the manufacturers/sellers, and you have to take care of the further use or disposal of the goods. 

Temu is interested in data

According to several reports, Temu operates on the principle of “If it doesn't cost anything, you are the product”. This means that the cheap and partly free offer is primarily aimed at preserving the users' data. These can then be sold for advertising purposes or used for political purposes. After all, the Chinese government can request the collected data from Chinese companies at any time.

It is interesting to take a look at the App Store or, on Android devices, the Google Play Store. If you take a look at the Temu page of the App Store as a test, you will not only see that the app can be used from iOS 9.0 (so that it also works on the oldest iPhones given to the kids), but also on the following ones Data wants to access: items purchased, location, user content (i.e. photos, videos, etc.), identifiers, diagnostics, financial information, contact information, search history, usage data.

The Temu app is compatible with iOS 9 and above and therefore diligently collects data on all kinds of old and new iPhones. Enough people have already fallen for the marketing concept to catapult Temu to number 1 in the download charts.
The Temu app is compatible with iOS 9 and above and therefore diligently collects data on all kinds of old and new iPhones. Enough people have already fallen for the marketing concept to catapult Temu to number 1 in the download charts.

In addition to looking at the App Store, where you should let Temu sour and not download it, we also recommend taking a look at YouTube. In addition to the video from Christian Solmecke already embedded above, there is also an insightful video from the channel “The Dark Parable Knight”. In addition to the company construct and the target group orientation (young people and children), Temu's data collection mania is also discussed, as well as its environmental intolerance and the tolerance of slave labor. You can find the video here:

Identity theft possible: Temu customer data on the dark web

Another interesting one Video to Temu comes from the channel “The Morpheus”. It is shown here that the channel operator was offered a data set consisting of customer data that allegedly came from Temu. Such a “sample” is common in order to verify data theft and to allow potential buyers to check whether they want to buy the entire database - for example from a hacking attack.

Using the example of two people whose data was in the sample data set with information about ten people, it was now shown what you can do with the data. For example, a customer paid with PayPal, which enables certain phishing measures. Another customer paid with a credit card, which, combined with her location and other information, could lead to identity theft. Blackmail is also possible with the data.

However, it is also mentioned that data collected through Temu purchases does not have to come from Temu itself or from a hack. Criminals can also simply register with Temu as a manufacturer/seller, sell non-existent products and thus collect data from people who want to get a bargain from them. If you have enough data, delete your offers and sell your data sets online darknet.

Stolen designs from artists are sold cheaply

In addition to the manufacturer and seller companies from China as well as the buyers from Germany, the rest of Europe, the USA and so on, Temu also plays a (negative) role for people who are not involved in the individual purchase contracts. Because on Temu, manufacturers without their own ideas can simply sell plagiarized artists' products. One of these many cases will be about in this Instagram video from October 2nd clearly. 

The illustrator, draftsman and artist who goes by the internet name “Kelsie Cosmic” reports that she discovered one of her designs as a pattern on someone else’s clothing. She asked them where the clothes came from and the answer she got was Temu. When she then researched the design at Temu, she found products that were offered with the pattern she had designed. Legal action is hardly possible here, especially given the limited financial resources of small self-employed people.

In a Update video from two days ago, the artist reveals that she is still trying to find the manufacturer of the plagiarism in order to stop the unauthorized sale of her designs. But the video mainly consists of advertising their design and the products that you can officially buy with it. That's somewhat understandable, because at the end she notes that the whole process and legal dispute isn't exactly cheap. Temu and other shops will generate even greater revenue for the counterfeiters until they can be prevented from selling the stolen designs.

What does consumer protection think about Temu?

Temu collects data unnecessarily, doesn't even care about the existence of the products on offer, can be used by third parties to steal data, wants to outsmart customs and tolerates slave labor. Up to this point we have already discussed several of these topics and offered corresponding videos with even more information. But let's also take a look at the statements from various consumer protection centers. This time I didn't ask for this myself, but rather refer to media reports, which also provide their own information:

  • consumer advice centre: Purchase reviews indicate poor quality, non-received shipments and difficult customer service. In addition, a WDR research shows that the operating instructions are in German and, last but not least, the CE mark is missing as a quality feature.
  • Bavarian Consumer Center: According to the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation (BR) says Simone Bueb, consumer law consultant at the Bavarian Consumer Center, among other things: “It may be that electronic products, for example, do not have the European test seal, the so-called CE seal. That the goods are inferior or that some of the goods arrive already defective because they are not packaged properly.” She also points out customs fees, return shipping fees and other pitfalls.
  • Additional information from NDR: NDR also quotes here consumer protection, but offers additional information. Because a test purchase was made and the products received were then evaluated: “That was one [...] Lamp significantly smaller than expected. A car door opener with a remote control was broadcasting on a forbidden military frequency and a smartwatch was noticed because of its unsecured data transmission."

Conclusion: Don't shop at Temu!

I have now rummaged through the Temu terms and conditions, through videos with different focuses, through information about stolen designs, through consumer protection information and through reports on test purchases. My conclusion about the Temu Shop is: Stay away from it! Don't create an account, and if you already have one, delete it. Don't order anything on the website or in the Temu app, and don't even download the latter onto your device. Skip Temu and similar shops, even if the offers are tempting. If something seems too good to really be true, it isn't true. And that also applies to Temu. Again: keep your hands off it!

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