The trouble with Temu, the cut-price Chinese competitor to Amazon 

What ethical concerns surround the online megastore?

Listen | 21:01

A pair of trainers for the price of a sandwich; a Dyson-dupe hair straightener for a fraction of the real thing – just about everything you can think of buying, and random, bizarre things you couldn’t even imagine exist, are for sale via Temu, the ecommerce app that is taking over the online shopping world. With millions of bargains, it promises buyers can “shop like a billionaire”.

In January 2024, the app recorded nearly 47.8 million downloads worldwide. Once you buy from Temu, the bombardment of emails begins, offering deals and discounts on already rock-bottom prices.

But authorities worldwide have been quick to investigate; to warn for example that some toys and electrical goods on the site do not meet safety standards. And the US State Department has cautioned that the labour conditions in some of the factories that make the goods for the third-party sellers on Boston-headquartered Temu could amount to forced labour.

So while the prices might be attractive, the quality of some of the products and relentless sales techniques are less so according to Irish Times consumer editor Conor Pope who explains Temu’s business model and why it has got such a hold so quickly.

Presented by Bernice Harrison. Produced by Suzanne Brennan.

Bernice Harrison

Bernice Harrison

Bernice Harrison is an Irish Times journalist and cohost of In the News podcast

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