In May 2023 Temu reached 100 million users1 in the US, having launched in the UK just a month before. Since then, Temu has been downloaded over 7.6 million times2.
But what is Temu? With an aggressive ad campaign, Temu has burst onto the scene, yet many ask if Temu is actually a legit company, and how it can possibly be so cheap?
Much like Amazon, Wish, eBay, Etsy, or any other online marketplaces, Temu in the UK acts as an intermediary to connect you with sellers across a diverse array of product categories, including electronics, fashion, home goods, and accessories.
Once on the app you’ll be faced with a vast product landscape, with a home page of deals and recommended products alongside meticulously crafted listings and categories.
Sellers, having undergone a registration process themselves, display their products on the app with a description, some images, and their prices. Much like social media algorithms, Temu’s intuitive search and discovery feature is designed to curate a home page of products that are tailored to your preferences, encouraging you to buy.
Whether finding your desired item through searching or finding it on suggested items, you can look at a seller’s product description, images, and reviews from customers to help you decide if you want to buy.
The overall transaction process is secure and user-friendly, with Temu offering a variety of payment options. Once an order is placed, sellers receive notifications to fulfil the transaction, ensuring timely packaging and shipment.
Once you’ve bought something, you will also have the opportunity to leave a review of the seller, just like you would on Amazon.
Temu is owned by Chinese e-commerce company PPD Holdings, though PPD Holdings itself is technically registered in the Cayman Islands, having moved its place of registration from Shanghai to Dublin in 2023.
In this sense, Temu is very much Pinduoduo’s sister company and PPD Holdings’ move into the Western market after their expansion in China with Pinduoduo.
Previously headed by Chinese billionaire and founder Colin Huang, Huang stepped down in 2021, though has kept his soaring shares to become China’s third-richest man4.
Given Temu’s sudden emergence in the West and unusual position under PPD Holdings, many have asked the question: is Temu legit?
When a motion sensor cabinet light costs just $3, or a pair of shoes less than $10, you might start asking the question: are these even real products? More than that, is Temu real?
Just like ordering from Wish or Alibaba, how genuine the products are depends entirely on the seller you buy from. Temu is the platform, not the seller, so the legitimacy of the products on the site can vary a lot.
This is technically nothing new. After all, dodgy products and scams are always something to be wary of, such as accidentally buying a piece of paper instead of a gaming console on eBay5.
With so many cheap products on the site, it can be hard to immediately tell which ones are worth considering and which are scams or destined to break as soon as you touch them.
If you are going to buy products on Temu, you must exercise caution and conduct thorough research. Make sure to check the following factors before buying:
Does Temu ship to the UK? The answer is yes, it absolutely does. Since its UK launch in April 2023, Temu has been available via desktop, the Google Play Store, and the Apple App Store for all UK users.
Despite some regulatory concerns and some of Temu’s adverts being banned in the UK5, as of 2024 there appears to be no current move from the UK government to ban Temu, so it should continue to work in the UK for the foreseeable future.
Pretty much any household item you can think of is offered by various sellers on Temu. As an online marketplace, Temu hosts sellers of all kinds, so long as the product being sold is not illegal to be sold online, and can feasibly be shipped from China to the UK, as that is where most of Temu’s sellers source their products from.
Of course, there are some main categories, and Temu typically sells products that fall into one of the following groups:
Remember, Temu only connects buyers (you) with individual sellers who list their products on the platform. Because of this, the specific products available on Temu will vary over time based on the sellers on Temu and their available inventory.
Alongside an aggressive advertising campaign, what has really pushed Temu to the top of the Play Store is it's unbelievably low prices.
But how and why is Temu, or more specifically the sellers on Temu, able to offer normal products for pennies? There are several different reasons.
The first is that Temu maintains a direct-to-manufacturer sourcing strategy. When you buy from other online retailers, especially cheap ones like Wish or Alibaba, the product you get has likely gone through lots of different hands after being produced in China.
Lots of middlemen means lots of little additional fees that all increase the final price that you see. Temu skips this by providing a platform for sellers direct from China, meaning you get the initial price right from the factory, without incurring costs associated with distributor markups.
Another factor at play might be the utilisation of flash sales, promotions, and limited-time offers. Temu, like many online marketplaces, often strategically launches time-limited discounts to entice users and stimulate sales. Most of the really low prices below a dollar or two are found in these flash sales.
Another factor is quality. Just like buying from Wish or Alibaba, lots of the products are so cheap to buy because they were so cheap to make. According to a US Congress report in 20236, there is an “extremely high risk” that many products on Temu are linked to forced labour.
Even these factors don’t make up the full story. A report from wealth management firm Sanford C. Bernstein7 suggests that despite taking in around $13 billion globally in 2023, Temu also incurred a total loss of around $3.65 billion.
Essentially, there’s a good chance that along with cheaply made products, dubious labour sources, and a direct factory-to-consumer approach, Temu is still burning cash, which is what allows it to run so many flash sales and aggressive marketing campaigns.
Aside from low prices, one of Temu’s main attractions is how easy it is to shop on the platform. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to shop on Temu:
Aside from the Temu homepage, here are some of the best websites with Temu coupon codes for the UK right now:
One of Temu’s most effective marketing strategies is through offering free things. Everyone likes getting things for free, after all.
While there isn’t one exact method, here are some of the different ways you might be able to grab some free products from Temu:
If you are going to be hunting for freebies, be careful not to fall victim to any scams. Always verify that any offers or promotions are legitimate and run by Temu, and don’t give your information away unless you are 100% sure of authenticity.
Because Temu is home to a huge number of different sellers, the quality of the products on Temu can vary quite a lot.
That being said, it’s clear that quality can be an issue, as one of the core features in Temu reviews and complaints is that of poor quality products14, alongside credit card issues and poor customer service.
What’s interesting is that a lot of the customer reviews that rate Temu positively on Trustpilot15 do reference the fact that product quality isn’t always great and can be very hit-and-miss. These reviews simply state that given the extremely low prices, a few bad apples in a bunch are to be expected.
When paying so little, product quality is almost always better than it should be, given the price tag. This means that even if something is poor quality in general, it can seem like a great deal if it barely costs any money.
To know for sure if what you’re buying is good quality, make sure to look at product reviews on the platform, and remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Many users have warned that Temu is a scam or that there is fraud on the site. The main thing to keep in mind is that if a scam has occurred, it is likely an individual seller that has committed the scam, and if so you can report them.
Temu encourages its customers to report scams16 - after all, it’s their reputation getting damaged when users get scammed by sellers on the platform.
Usually, only buying from trusted sellers with high ratings and lots of reviews can help you avoid any scams on the website. Most users report getting what they paid for, even if the quality isn’t very good17.
Generally speaking, Temu’s refund policy is pretty solid. You do, however, have to be careful if you want to get your money back. Temu offers a 90-day return policy, meaning you can return most products within 90 days of purchase, and expect to have your money back within 30 days.
The products that can’t be returned include:
What Temu won’t tell you straight away is that when you return the item, it needs to be in its original packaging. That’s right, if you’ve already binned the packaging your item came in, it’s too late.
When you return an item, you’ll need to officially open a refund request on the app, place your item back into its original packaging, and then send it to a Temu warehouse so they can check its quality.
Be aware that this can take a while, so be prepared to wait a little bit before you get your money back.
Temu doesn’t technically “produce” any of its own products. Because of this, the ethical nature of any products found on Temu is entirely down to who the seller is.
With that being said, China isn’t known for its ethically sourced products anyway, and as mentioned earlier US Congressional reports have found it extremely likely that items on Temu have been produced by third parties that use forced labour.
Aside from some products possibly being unethically produced, Temu is primarily a fast-fashion platform18, which is a craze known for its promotion of unnecessary waste and high CO2 emissions.
Although not unique to Temu, shipping products from China to the UK also isn’t the most eco-friendly way of acquiring products.
Temu insists that although it collects a lot of data from users, it does not sell or misuse your data19. This, however, is a heavily disputed claim.
First, there is the issue of China’s policies on data usage20, essentially meaning the Chinese government can request access to any and all data held by Chinese companies at any time.
Secondly, Temu’s sister app Pinduoduo was suspended by Google because of suspicion of malware on the app21. This seems to be a concern with Temu itself, with a class action lawsuit22 filed by many Temu users claiming that Temu contains the “most dangerous” spyware in circulation.
Apple has also stated that Temu has previously violated the company's mandatory privacy rules23, misleading people about how their data is used.
A full list of all the data Temu officially collects, along with their reasonings for doing so can be found on the Temu website, but for your convenience here is a shortlist:
It is important to remember that the individual sellers you buy from on Temu will likely also collect your data in some fashion, and that by buying from them you are submitting at least some of your information to them.
As mentioned many times already, Temu is not the only cheap online store, nor is it the largest online marketplace. Depending on what kind of products you are looking for, here is a list of some of the best alternatives:
While Temu is technically legit in the UK, as well as many other European countries, you should exercise caution both when signing up and when buying products. If you care little about your data, and are looking for some fun, cheap, possibly low-quality gifts and items, Temu is a great place to look.
If, however, you are concerned about how your data is used online, or if you are looking for products that will last you the next ten years, then an alternative marketplace listed above like Amazon or Etsy is probably a better choice.
Sources: all third party information obtained from applicable website as of January 27, 2024
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