An app you may have heard people talk about recently is Temu. It’s become something of a darling on TikTok and is quickly establishing itself alongside Shein as the go-to place for fashion bargains. The question is whether Temu is legit and safe to use.
What is Temu?
Temu is a shopping app that offers products at such low prices that they seem too good to be true. Its tag line – Shop like a billionaire – may be a little optimistic, but there’s no doubt that plenty of the goods found on Temu will be affordable to most people. You can visit Temu’s website here.
There are a few catches, of course. While you can buy, for example, a pack of five hair clips for just a few pennies, there’s a minimum order value (£10 for those in the UK).
One of the reasons Temu is so popular with kids and teens is its gamification, offering even cheaper prices and free products when they share on social media and get friends to sign up. You can’t use the app for very long before seeing mini games (spin the wheel, for one) to win Temu credit, making it more alluring for those on pocket money budget.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
Is Temu safe to use?
So long as you’re happy dealing with suppliers that are based in China, with the potential delays to deliveries and the complications this might bring with returns, then Temu is much the same as other online retailers.
It’s often compared to the likes of Wish, AliExpress and Shein, other Chinese shopping portals. Temu does offer a wide variety of products though, covering a much more varied selection of categories than the fashion-focused Shein.
At the time of writing, Temu had an overall rating of 3.9 (out of 5) from 276 customer reviews on Trustpilot. Many are positive about the inexpensive nature of the products, while others complain of a disparity between the images on the site/app and what they actually receive. Others complain about the quality of the goods themselves.
It stands to reason that if you’re paying rock-bottom prices, you’re not getting a premium product through your letterbox. Part of the problem is that so many of the products are knock-offs of expensive Western brands, leading to disappointment for those that don’t realise they’re not the genuine item.
If you’re unhappy, Temu says you can return goods for free and receive a full refund if you do so within 90 days. Temu also offers credits for deliveries that take too long. You can check the details on the Temu Purchase Protection page.
Does Temu take my data?
Again, like most online retailers, the apps will retain certain data about you. This can include payment details (to allow you to quickly check-out the next time you shop), your app activities and your device ID. Both of the latter could be shared with third-parties as a way to service ads to you. This is pretty standard stuff though. The parent company PDD Holdings did get in trouble with Google a little while back, due to another of its shopping apps, Pinduoduo, wanting too much information.
This led to it being temporarily removed from the Play store. Temu doesn’t have the same problem, with its permissions deemed ‘less aggressive’ by analysts.
Where is Temu based?
The origins of Temu are a little complicated. Its parent company PDD Holdings was originally called Pinduoduo Inc., and located in Shanghai, China. This was changed to PDD Holdings, and the registered offices moved to Dublin, Ireland. This isn’t uncommon, as many overseas companies register in Ireland as a way to take advantage of the low taxes they have to pay, plus having a gateway into the EU marketplace.
There are also offices in America and Canada, as the company continues to expand. It seems likely that the oversight and decisions of PDD Holdings remain in China, as do the majority of the products it sells, but the official paperwork says otherwise.
Are products sold on Temu ethical?
Let’s be realistic. Cheap products, sold in bulk and shipped across the world are never going to be good news for the environment. That’s as true for Amazon as it is for Temu. While companies can definitely try to reduce their impact on the world, there’s only so much that can be done with this business model.
However, the environment is perhaps not the biggest concern. A Channel 4 documentary aired in October 2022 exposed the inhumane working conditions in factories that supplied Shien with goods. These sweatshops are one of the main ways products can be sold at such a low cost, and it’s doubtful things are any different at Temu’s suppliers.
Temu does have a Third Party Code of Conduct document that outlines how any partners must ensure that its employees are treated with respect, paid fairly and can work safely. There are also bans of companies using hazardous materials in products or during the manufacturing process.
Of course, Shein has similar policies, but they don’t stop poor working conditions or, indeed, from toxic chemicals ending up in clothing and other products.
Besides this, you only have to look on the Temu app to see how designers and brands have their products copied, almost certain without permission or credit.
How do I get Temu?
It comes primarily as an app for Android and iOS, but you can also access the site via a web browser when you visit www.temu.com.
Martyn has been involved with tech ever since the arrival of his ZX Spectrum back in the early 80s. He covers iOS, Android, Windows and macOS, writing tutorials, buying guides and reviews for Macworld and its sister site Tech Advisor.