Temu is now in South Africa but is it safe?

There is a new ecommerce platform operating locally, something you don’t need to be told if you spent any time on social media recently. This platform is called Temu, a Chinese firm which is now operating in South Africa, but despite the prevalence of its ads, many are asking if it is safe to use.

Like Shein before it,Temu offers cheap products for online purchase and delivery. It launched in January in South Africa, but has been operating internationally for some time.

According to a Bloomberg report, Temu is backed by PDD Holdings, a Chinese corporation. The ecommerce platform recently went viral after being featured in an advert at the 2024 Super Bowl in the US.

The local Temu storefront, complete with a security warning about phishing and scam sites.

A ZDNet report indicates that Temu sees over 30 million new app downloads every month, so clearly its popularity is spiking. The stand-out feature of the platform is that its products are supremely cheap. You can find LED-infused gaming keyboards for under R200, and wireless PS4 controller knock-offs for under R500, or phone cases at just R25 for a set of three or more.

Is Temu safe for South Africans to buy from?

Unlike others that are less safe, Temu is a legitimate website, and it officially will take about 10 days for you to receive your purchased goods. Most of its tech items are knock-offs, unless they have blue checkmarks alongside their listing. You can buy items like laptops, smartphones and tablets from myriad manufacturers, some are relatively unknown locally.

To protect shoppers, Temu has a Purchase Protection Programme in place so if your orders don’t match the online listing, arrived damaged or didn’t arrive at all, you can apply for a refund within 90 days of purchase. This is a good policy to have, especially as some reviews have said that items may arrive much later, or not arrive at all.

Other customers have said Temu has a similar problem to Wish, in that items purchased will look quite different to the listing when they finally arrive at your doorstep.

What’s the problem with Temu?

The same Bloomberg report says that South African retailers have responded with fear at the introduction of Temu. They allege that Temu, and similar operations like Shein, are using tax loopholes to grow at an unprecedented pace.

Temu is denying any tax defaulting on imports or duties, instead a spokesperson says that it’s the company’s processes that lead to its growth.

“The primary drivers behind our rapid expansion and market acceptance are the supply chain efficiencies and operational proficiencies we’ve cultivated over the years,” Kieran Powell, a Temu spokesperson, told Bloomberg. It is this reason why its products are so cheap, and not because they don’t include mark-ups due to taxes, or at least this is what the company claims.

Shein, another giant Chinese etailer offers similarly low prices on fashion and clothing items. It has weathered allegations for years of employee abuse at its factories, including that it has indentured workers. Shein has never been prosecuted over these allegations.

We urge South Africans to exercise caution when shopping online, no matter where they are buying from. Consider creating a brand new email address just for online shopping to spare your more important addresses from spam messages and scams.

Also consider using the likes of Samsung Pay, Google Pay or Apple Pay, or even PayPal, instead of giving these companies your bank account or debit/credit card details directly.


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