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Is Temu legit? Everything to know before you place your first order

Have you wondered if Temu is a safe place to buy from, if the items are real, or if the website steals your data? These are frequently asked questions, so let's unpack them.
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor
Reviewed by Alyson Windsor
the Temu logo is seen displayed on a mobile phone screen
Photo Illustration by Idrees Abbas/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

If you're an avid online shopper, chances are you've probably heard of an e-commerce site called Temu. The Chinese-owned digital marketplace has exploded, with millions of Americans downloading and purchasing items using the mobile app. Many online digital creators frequently post the items they bought from the site, and you might be wondering what the website is all about and if you should do the same. According to Statista, Temu sees over 30 million new downloads monthly, making it the number one shopping app in Apple's App Store and the Google Play Store.

Also: Temu vs. Amazon: Which shopping site is best for your buying needs?

If you've hesitated to place an order, you may be unsure if the items are genuine, how long they take to get to your door, and whether they're good quality. After all, how good can a $1 handbag even be? Well, look no further because this article addresses all your questions about Temu. Let's get into it.

What is Temu?

Temu is an online shopping megastore offering almost any product you can imagine. You can buy car accessories, clothing, kitchen appliances, electronics, outdoor furniture, power tools, baby clothes, and everything in between. 

Also: How much tech can I get from Temu for $100 (and is it any good)?

Temu's stand-out feature is that many of the site's products are incredibly cheap. You can buy shoes for $15, necklaces for $1, and wireless keyboards for $10. In fact, whatever you can think of is probably on Temu for less than $50.

A screenshot of Temu's landing page
Screenshot by Jada Jones/ZDNET

Some people compare Temu to sites like Shein, Wish, and AliExpress, but Temu is a little different. Shein primarily focuses on fashion and clothing items, while you can buy almost anything on Temu. Wish and AliExpress are known for having lower-quality items, longer shipping times, and a shorter item return window.

Temu launched in late 2022 and quickly rose to the top spot in the App Store's and Play Store's shopping categories. People found out about Temu from ads and were attracted to the site's low prices.

Is Temu a legitimate website?

It depends on your definition of "legitimate." Yes, most of the products on Temu are real; you will receive them, and it takes about 10 days for them to reach your doorstep.

However, any tech products you order on Temu are not name-brand unless there is a blue checkmark on their product listing. You can buy items like laptops, smartphones, and tablets, but they're from lesser-known manufacturers.

Also: I bought some off-brand geeky stuff from Temu (and wasn't mad about it)

Some customers have found that the items they ordered looked slightly different from those on the website or were lower quality than expected. 

My colleague David Gewirtz purchased a few tech items from Temu and detailed the quality and value of each item. From my experience, you can find many good quality tech accessories on Temu, like phone cases, AirPods cases, and laptop covers. That said, I would not recommend buying device charging cables, stations, off-brand, or "dupe" tech items from Temu.

Is it safe to buy from Temu?

I can't definitively tell you that it's safe or unsafe to buy items from Temu. However, here are some safeguards you should implement when purchasing from Temu and any other online retailer.

  • If you have an iPhone, consider using the "Hide My Email" feature when you sign up for a Temu account. This feature generates a random email address and will forward messages to your iCloud email. If you receive too many spam messages to the hidden email address, you can easily deactivate it.
  • If you don't have an iPhone, don't fret. Email providers offer aliases that you can create for websites you don't fully trust or don't want clogging up your inbox.
  • Never link your bank account or debit card to an online retailer. A hacking attempt can compromise your payment information. Instead, consider buying and using Visa gift cards or paying with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, or PayPal. These payment methods are much more challenging for bad actors to access.

What can I expect when I place an order?

To buy items from Temu, follow the same formula as for any e-commerce site. Find things you like, add them to your cart, and check out.

There is one wrinkle before you purchase your items: you must have at least $10 worth of items in your cart before you can check out. Temu says the $10 minimum covers shipping fees for users who want free shipping.

Temu offers a $5 credit for packages purchased with standard shipping if your items arrive late. The company will also credit you $13 for packages purchased with express shipping that arrive late

Also: Amazon's new AI tool lets sellers create listings using just a URL

In other cases, the items can arrive on time, be decent or good quality, and be exactly how they look on Temu's website. Product quality can be unpredictable, which is not so different from offerings on other online stores.

If your items don't look like their online listing, arrive damaged, or don't arrive at all, your order is eligible for Temu's Purchase Protection Program. This program guarantees your money back with a full refund if you return your items within 90 days of purchase.

Item prices on Temu fluctuate constantly. If you buy an item and its price decreases after your purchase, you can request a price adjustment. The difference will be available on your account as a Temu credit within minutes.

Why is Temu controversial?

The US government accused Temu of potential data risks after Google suspended its sister site, e-commerce platform Pinduoduo, for containing malware. According to CNBC, analysts say Temu is less of a threat, and the risks associated with Pinduoduo were targeted at Chinese users.

Also: Temu vs. Amazon: Which shopping site is best for your buying needs?

Separately, the US House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party published a report that states Temu does not take the necessary steps to ensure the products on the site comply with the Uyghur Forced Labor Act.

The same report asserts that Temu exploits a US commerce loophole that allows the company to avoid paying tariffs and complying with US commerce laws and regulations.

Are the products on Temu good quality?

Temu is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and has an average rating of two-and-a-half out of five stars. Many recent complaints about Temu on the BBB website say that items never arrived or took weeks or even months to arrive.

Also: Reddit's new paid ads look exactly like user posts

On social media, particularly on TikTok, many people are pleased with their Temu purchases. From little gadgets and household items to clothes and shoes, Temu is one of TikTok's popular obsessions. 

I've tried products from Temu, and I encountered minimal problems. Of course, some items are cheaply made, but that's to be expected when you're paying $1 or $3. The items on Temu are generally what you would expect them to be.

Which products should I avoid on Temu?

The answer to this question is a personal one. At ZDNET, we've only tested tech-related items from Temu. One of ZDNET's contributing experts, David Gewirtz, bought a handheld gaming console that claimed to have 27,000 retro games installed on it.

However, upon using the console, David found that none of the games were downloaded, and the product listing was misleading. 

Also: I tried to return something to Temu. Here's what happened

I've tested a pair of earbuds, headphones, a wireless keyboard, and a mouse from Temu, and they all worked as expected. Of course, they were lower quality, and you could find better-quality tech items elsewhere.

I've also purchased many AirPods and iPhone cases from Temu and have been pleasantly surprised. The cases are usually of excellent color, fit, and durability.

So, the best advice we can give you is to avoid electronics and big-ticket items. Instead, choose accessories and small gadgets.

Is Temu a Chinese company?

Temu's parent company is PDD Holdings, a multinational commerce group headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. PDD Holdings owns Temu and its sister company, Pinduoduo. 

It isn't easy to pinpoint Temu's exact origins. In a February 2023 SEC 6-K filing, Pinduoduo changed its name to PDD Holdings in a special resolution. The company also moved its principal executive offices from Shanghai, China, to Dublin, Ireland.

The executive office relocation isn't necessarily a red flag, as many tech companies -- including American ones -- move to Ireland because of the country's low corporate tax rates.

Also: I tried 4 tech products from Temu. Here's how it went

Temu says the company was founded in Boston in 2022, but the site's "About Us" page does not mention its parent company, according to The Washington Post. Temu's Boston office is not a warehouse full of products, but more than likely is the central office that's connected to Temu's other offices worldwide.

According to the Boston Globe, Temu set up camp in Boston partially because of its proximity to Canada, where the company recently opened another office.

Does Temu produce its products ethically?

According to Retail Insider, Temu's reverse-manufacturing model helps the company decrease waste by gauging customers' desired products more accurately. 

Also: You can use your Amazon Prime benefits on other online shopping sites now - here's how

Temu's Third Party Code of Conduct stresses that the company has a zero-tolerance policy for vendors that use forced labor to manufacture products. All Temu vendors must comply with local wage and hour laws, and their working conditions must be safe and non-abusive. 

However, the US House Select Committee's report states that Temu does not have an auditing or compliance program to ensure sellers comply with its Code of Conduct.

If you're wondering if Temu is environmentally ethical, that's a trickier topic. Sites like Temu, Shein, and AliExpress say they're committed to environmental sustainability by digitizing the economy, cutting supply chain waste, and offsetting carbon emissions.

Also: Is TikTok Shop safe?

However, many of these companies also distribute products containing harmful chemicals that eventually end up in landfills. These companies also claim to offset their emissions by purchasing carbon credits to fund sustainability initiatives. However, how, when, and where these carbon credits help the environment is unclear.

Additionally, the US House Select Committee's report says that Temu does not correctly ensure its products are not the result of forced labor. It's illegal to sell items in the US that come from China's Xinjiang region

China's Xinjiang region has a convoluted and violent history between the Chinese government and the Uyghur people. It is common for items manufactured in this region to be the product of forced labor.

Why is Temu so cheap?

According to Temu, the items on the site are so cheap because the supply chain runs directly from consumers to sellers. Without a go-between, Temu can slash prices. However, the exclusive use of third-party sellers raises questions about Temu's ethics. 

Does Temu steal or sell your data?

All e-commerce apps collect data when you create an account and visit the app's home page. This data can include your precise physical location, address, and device ID, as well as your search history, payment information, and contacts.

Some apps use this data to track you across apps and websites, to understand performance, and to target you with ads.

Some of this data is linked to your identity, and some isn't -- the connection depends on the app you're using. In recent years, people have been increasingly concerned about how their data is being stored and are wary specifically of data storage by Chinese-based apps.

Also: Is Temu safe? Why its single-layer security should be a red flag to shoppers

According to Temu's privacy policy, the company does not "sell" your data -- for money, at least. However, Temu does share your information with shipping affiliates, marketing providers, and consumer research companies, which in turn generates revenue for Temu.

Temu also "shares" your data with third-party advertising, marketing, and analytics companies to target you with ads. In its privacy policy, Temu acknowledges that this transfer of data can be considered "selling" your data under applicable laws.

Although concerns about sharing your data with Temu might be valid, it's important to remember that apps can and do collect and store your data with few limits. US citizens' user data is not federally protected under a single law, so data collection remains unregulated in most states. 

Because American user data remains federally unregulated, Temu might access your credit history, Walmart might collect your biometric information (fingerprints, face geometry, and retina imagery), and Amazon might collect your voice recordings when you speak to Alexa.

As Americans' user data is not wholly protected, it's up to the individual to decide how much of their data they want to relinquish -- and which platforms they want to give it to.

Remember, when you sign up for an account on any platform, you agree to the company's privacy policy. So, Temu is not "stealing" your data if you willingly sign up and purchase items. 

The bottom line is that if you don't consent to this kind of data collection, stay away from Temu.

Is Temu a good company to buy from?

Online shopping can be a gamble. Fake reviews are littered across American retailers, such as Amazon and Walmart, which damage consumers' trust in online stores.

Also: TikTok bans explained: Everything you need to know

Items can be lost in transit, stolen from your doorstep, broken during the shipping process, or show up looking completely different than they did online. 

Temu's standard shipping policy in the US is free, but your items aren't expected to ship for seven to 15 business days. Temu says that if your package never arrives, or you're told it's been delivered but hasn't been, you should contact customer service within 90 days of purchase.

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