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Is Temu legit? What to know before you place an order

Wondering if Temu is a scam? You're not alone. Read on to find out everything we know about Temu to help you make an informed decision.
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor on
Reviewed by Alyson Windsor
Temu app
CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images

If you are a frequent online shopper, chances are you've come across a site called Temu. It's a Chinese-owned digital marketplace that's taken the internet by storm.

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

You may be wondering if the items are real, how long they take to get to your door, and if the items are of good quality. Well, look no further, because this article addresses all the questions you might have about Temu. Let's get into it.

A screenshot of Temu's landing page
Image: Jada Jones/ZDNET

What is Temu?

Temu is an online-shopping megastore that offers just about any product you can imagine. You can buy car accessories, clothing, electronics, outdoor furniture, power tools, baby clothes, and everything in between. 

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

Temu's stand-out feature is that many of the site's products are incredibly cheap. You can buy sunglasses for $2, necklaces for $1, and glow-in-the-dark pet collars for $3. In fact, whatever you can think of is probably on Temu for less than $30.

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 customers 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 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, as in, you will receive them, and it takes about 10 days before they reach your doorstep.

But any tech products you order on Temu are not name-brand unless they have a blue checkmark on their product listing. So far, the only blue check-verified tech brands on Temu are Xiaomi and Lenovo.

Also: Here's why everything on Temu is so cheap

Earlier this year, an HP representative told ZDNET that the company could not verify that the HP products on Temu were "from an authorized reseller or are authentic HP devices." Since ZDNET's inquiry, there are no products on Temu advertised as HP products.

Some customers say the items they ordered look slightly different than they did on the website or were lower quality than they expected. 

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

Also: Your Apple charger may be a counterfeit, and this tiny gadget can tell

In other cases, the items can arrive on time, can be decent or good quality, and can 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 you receive your items and they don't look like their online listing, or they arrive damaged, or they 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.  

Why is Temu controversial?

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

Following his ban on TikTok, Montana governor Greg Gianforte accused Temu of being "tied to foreign adversaries" and banned the popular shopping app from the state's government-issued devices. 

Also: Amazon is refreshing its Fire TV products with generative AI features. Here's what's new

Additionally, the U.S. 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 U.S. commerce loophole that allows the company to avoid paying tariffs and complying with U.S. 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 out of five stars. Many recent complaints about Temu on the BBB website say that items never arrived or, if they did, took weeks or even months to arrive. 

Also: These 5 new Amazon features make finding the products you need even easier

On social media, particularly on TikTok, people are pleased with their Temu purchases. From little gadgets and household items to clothes and shoes, Temu is becoming TikTok's latest obsession. 

I've tried products from Temu, and I encountered minimal problems. Of course, some items are cheaply made, but that's to be expected for a $1 to $3 item. However, generally, the items on Temu are what you would expect them to be.

Who owns Temu?

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

However, it's a little difficult to accurately pin down Temu's exact origins. In a February 2023 SEC 6-K filing, Pinduoduo Inc. 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 chose to set up camp in Boston partially because of its proximity to Canada, where the company recently opened another office.

How is everything on Temu so cheap?

The items on Temu are exceptionally cheap. Temu says it keeps its products affordable by connecting customers directly to suppliers, while Temu handles the shipping of items to customers. So, Temu does not own the products listed on its website and acts as a liaison between shoppers and sellers.

As mentioned above, Temu's parent company, PDD Holdings, owns another e-commerce platform called Pinduoduo that operates in China. Pinduoduo raked in over $18 billion in revenue in 2022. 

Also: The best headphones for music: Expert reviewed

However, the U.S. House Select Committee asserts that Temu can make its products so cheaply for U.S. consumers because the company operates under the de minimis loophole, which allows imports valued under $800 to come into the U.S. without paying duties, taxes, and fees, and undergoing rigorous inspection. The Committe report says Temu can make its products cheaper by using the de minimis provision to evade import duties, tariffs, and U.S. Customs inspections.

Does Temu produce its products ethically?

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

Also: 5 ways to keep your smartphone working like new, for longer

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 U.S. House Select Committee's report states that Temu does not have an auditing or compliance program to ensure sellers remain in compliance 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 digitalizing the economy, cutting supply chain waste, and offsetting carbon emissions.

Also: How to trade in your old devices for Amazon gift cards

But 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. But how, when, and where these carbon credits help the environment is unclear.

Additionally, the U.S. House Select Committee's report says that Temu does not properly ensure its products are not the result of forced labor. It's illegal to sell items in the U.S. 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.

What data does Temu collect from you?

All e-commerce apps collect data from you when you create an account and visit the app's home page. This data can range from your precise physical location, address, and device ID, and onto 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: How to protect and secure your password manager

Although this data concern might be valid, it's important to remember that apps can collect and store your data with few limits, as U.S. citizens' user data is not federally protected under a singular law. As a result, 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.

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

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

Temu's standard shipping policy in the U.S. 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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