Temu app: is it legit in the UK? Why is Temu so cheap?

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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?

What is Temu and how does it work?

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. 

To sign up, all you need to do is register using pretty standard information such as your email, name, phone number, shipping address, and payment method. 

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.

Who is really behind Temu?

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. 

PPD Holdings also owns the company Pinduoduo, a similar e-commerce site that sells mostly inside of China, and was valued at $200 Billion by the Financial Times3 in 2021.

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?

Is Temu legit, and can their products be trusted?

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.

That being said, Temu’s products are generally on the lower-quality end of the spectrum, and users should expect what they pay for.

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:

  1. User reviews: Check customer reviews and ratings for both the platform and specific products. Look for patterns and common feedback regarding the quality of products and the reliability of the seller. Remember, a site with thousands of positive reviews is more reliable than one with a few hundred.
  2. Product descriptions: Scrutinise product listings for detailed descriptions, specifications, and images. Be wary of vague or misleading information - if it doesn’t say the product has something, it probably doesn’t.
  3. Seller information: Temu operates as a marketplace where different sellers offer their products. Check the reputation of the sellers, as well as any available information about their history and customer feedback.
  4. Contact information: If there’s no way to contact the seller, that is a bad sign. Also, keep in mind that Temu’s own customer support is reported to be pretty slow and ineffective.
  5. Refund policy: Temu’s refund policy is generally pretty generous, allowing you to send back items for a refund within 90 days of purchase. You should be careful, however, as some products such as worn clothes are excluded from this policy.

Is Temu available in the UK?

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.

What can you buy on Temu?

Everything, almost.

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:

  1. Electronics: This category may include gadgets, smartphones, laptops, audio devices, and other electronic accessories.
  2. Fashion: Users can find a variety of clothing items, footwear, and fashion accessories.
    Home Goods: Temu may offer household items, decor, kitchenware, furniture, and other home-related products.
  3. Beauty and personal care: Products such as skin care items, cosmetics, and grooming accessories may be available.
  4. Accessories: This category may include a wide range of accessories such as jewellery, bags, and watches.

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.

Why is Temu so cheap?

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.

Cheap materials, made in large factory batches by cheap or possibly free forced labour equals very cheap prices when you log in to the Temu app in the UK. 

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.

How do I use the Temu app? 

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:

Create your Temu account:
Begin by creating a Temu account. The registration process typically involves providing a valid email address and creating a secure password. 
Explore product categories:
Dive into Temu's extensive product categories, ranging from electronics and fashion to home goods and accessories. With an intuitive interface and clear categories, you can easily browse to discover a wide range of products, or search for exactly what you want.
Detailed product listings:
Once you find products you are interested in, you can click on their listing to see details. Sellers on Temu usually provide a product description, images, prices, and specifications when necessary.
Read user reviews:
Before finalising your purchase, make sure to read the reviews and ratings to make sure the product has the quality and specifications you are expecting.
Add to cart:
If you want to buy, you can add an item to your shopping cart or purchase immediately. Temu allows users to accumulate multiple items in the cart before proceeding to checkout.
Secure checkout process:
Next, navigate to the checkout page to review your selected items. Provide accurate shipping information (your address), and choose a payment method that suits your preferences. Temu supports most standard payment options such as credit and debit cards, as well as digital wallets like Apple Pay or Google Pay.
Stay informed about discounts:
Keep an eye out for any ongoing promotions, discounts, or coupon codes that Temu may offer. The platform regularly releases promotional codes that users can apply during checkout for additional savings.
Track your order:
After completing the transaction, Temu normally provides order tracking information, allowing you to track the progress of your package.
Leave your feedback:
After purchasing, you can leave a review and rating of the seller and product to help other users make informed decisions.

The best places to find Temu coupon codes for the UK

Aside from the Temu homepage, here are some of the best websites with Temu coupon codes for the UK right now:

  • The Independent: Temu Voucher Codes8
  • Vouchercodes.co.uk: Temu9
  • The Mirror: Temu Discount Codes10
  • Discountgo.co.uk: Temu11
  • Myvouchercodes.co.uk: Temu12
  • The Sun: Temu Voucher Codes13

How can I get free stuff on Temu? 

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:

Promotions and giveaways:
Keep an eye on Temu's promotions and giveaways. Sharing on social media, participating in contests, and referrals are avenues where users might snag free products.
Referral programs:
Temu's referral programs incentivise users with rewards or credits for referring friends, potentially leading to free product redemptions.
Limited-time offers:
Flash deals and time-sensitive promotions occasionally offer products for free or at significant discounts.
Community participation:
Actively engage in Temu's community events and forums for potential access to exclusive giveaways or special promotions.
Beta testing and reviews:
Opportunities for free items may arise through beta testing new products or providing reviews, allowing users to try products at no cost.

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.

Are Temu’s products good quality? How can I know before I buy?

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.

Does Temu refund customers when things go wrong?

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.

Is Temu’s refund policy reliable?

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:

  • clothing that has been worn, washed or had the tags, packaging or hygiene stickers removed
  • free gifts
  • any items already labelled as non-returnable

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.

If Temu accepts that you haven’t caused any damage and then returned the item, they will process your request and refund you.

Be aware that this can take a while, so be prepared to wait a little bit before you get your money back.

Is Temu an ethical company? Are its products ethically produced?

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.

Does Temu collect and sell your private data?

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.

What data does Temu collect?

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:

  • Mobile phone number or email address
  • Profile photo, username, and email address
  • Transaction history
  • Payment information
  • Shipping address
  • Recipient contact information
  • Communication history with customer service
  • Profile pictures, photos, videos, comments, and other content shared on the platform
  • Information provided during contests, promotions, or surveys, including contact information.
  • Any additional data provided by users for purposes outlined in the Privacy Policy.
  • Data from data providers, affiliate partners, marketing partners, U.S. public sources, and other third-party services
  • Information obtained from social media services and logistics providers.
  • Information collected automatically:
    • Device data: Information about the device used to access Temu.
    • Service usage information: Interactions with the Service, page views, and email interactions.
    • Location data
    • Cookies and similar technologies

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.

The 5 best Temu alternatives

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:

Wish:
Very similar to Temu, Wish is an online retail marketplace that offers a broad selection of cheap products, ranging from electronics to fashion. Along with many of the same advantages as Temu with cheap items and a large selection, Wish also suffers from many of the same issues such as low trust and a prevalence of low-quality items.
Amazon:
Now the Western world’s default e-commerce store, Amazon is always a reliable choice for fast delivery and a good range of vetted products. With a robust review system and reliable delivery services, it is one of the safest choices for shopping online, though won’t have quite as cheap a selection of products as Temu or Wish.
eBay:
One of the first e-commerce stores around, eBay is known for its auction-style listings, and the ability to sell and buy almost anything on the platform. Although there is less vetting and verification than Amazon, eBay is relatively unique with its bidding system, giving you the opportunity to find and create your own deals.
Etsy:
A specialised e-commerce store, Etsy is the platform for anyone wanting unique, handcrafted, or vintage items. Acting similarly to other online marketplaces, Etsy offers a selection of independent sellers and is ideal when looking for independent and artisan products, though you will need to be careful of any cheap knockoff sellers that fall through the cracks of user reviews.
AliExpress:
Very similar to Temu or Wish, as part of the Chinese Alibaba Group AliExpress connects buyers with broad sellers globally. Just like Temu, AliExpress can offer extremely cheap products made in China by cutting out the middleman.

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

  1. https://www.businessofapps.com/data/temu-statistics/
  2. https://techreport.com/statistics/temu-statistics/#:~:text=Key%20Temu%20Statistics&text=As%20of%20September%202023%2C%20Temu,of%20Temu's%20entire%20user%20base.
  3. https://www.ft.com/content/94a39cee-fc41-44c7-9abe-a79ffa30ab96
  4. https://www.forbes.com/consent/ketch/?toURL=https://www.forbes.com/lists/china-billionaires/
  5. https://www.gamespot.com/articles/man-pays-750-for-a-piece-of-paper-he-thought-was-an-xbox-one/1100-6416572/
  6. https://the-ethos.co/is-temu-ethical/
  7. https://tech.co/news/why-is-temu-so-cheap#:~:text=However%2C%20new%20findings%20reveal%20that,a%20loss%20of%20%243.65%20billion.
  8. https://www.independent.co.uk/vouchercodes/temu-com
  9. https://www.vouchercodes.co.uk/temu.com
  10. https://discountcode.mirror.co.uk/discount-code/temu
  11. https://www.discountgo.co.uk/temu/
  12. https://www.myvouchercodes.co.uk/temu
  13. https://vouchercodes.thesun.co.uk/offers/temu
  14. https://www.sitejabber.com/reviews/temu.com
  15. https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/temu.com
  16. https://www.temu.com/support/c3/report-something-suspicious-on-temu-f-208-s-1841.html
  17. https://www.reddit.com/r/Scams/comments/13895gp/is_temu_a_scam_its_very_sketchy/
  18. https://wiser.eco/is-temu-ethical/
  19. https://www.temu.com/uk/privacy-and-cookie-policy.html
  20. https://harris-sliwoski.com/chinalawblog/the-chinese-government-has-your-data-and-theres-not-much-you-can-do/
  21. https://www.cnbc.com/2023/05/17/temu-accused-of-data-risks-amid-tiktok-pinduoduo-fears.html
  22. https://www.fashiondive.com/news/temu-class-action-lawsuit-data-collection/699328/
  23. https://www.politico.eu/article/booming-chinese-shopping-app-temu-faces-western-scrutiny-over-data-security-2/

This article is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to address every aspect of the matters discussed herein. The information in this article is not intended as specific personal advice. The information in this article does not constitute legal, tax, regulatory or other professional advice from IDT Payment Services, Inc. and its affiliates (collectively, “IDT”), and should not be taken or used as such by any individual. IDT makes no representation, warranty or guaranty, whether express or implied, that the content in this article is current, accurate, or complete. You should obtain professional or other substantive advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the information in this article.

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