Risks of shopping at online low-cost stores!

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Everything under 100 euros and two free printers to boot: Who wouldn’t go for it? But, as usual, there is a catch.

Online stores with breathtakingly low prices are no longer a rarity. We come across them on almost all platforms, and they are becoming increasingly visible with all kinds of advertising campaigns. The online mail-order company Temu, in particular, has been indispensable in Europe since the beginning of 2023 at the latest and is currently high up on the app charts.

According to lawyer Christian Solmecke, partner at law firm WBS Legal and host of the YouTube channel of the same name, the store is one of the fastest-growing e-commerce companies in China. One of the company’s aims is to give consumers in the Western world access to Chinese products.

But this has its pitfalls: This is why consumer protection regularly warns against buying from non-European stores. It is, therefore, worth taking a closer look before falling into the trap of a supposed bargain.

How to turn a bargain into usury
The prices obviously speak for themselves, plus there is free delivery. Logically, people quickly click on the order button. However, the goods and products come from third-party providers in non-EU countries. This means that Wish, Temu, AliExpress, or Shein orders can quickly incur high customs duties, which drive up the apparent bargain price.

According to the NRW consumer advice center, the provider Temu is exempt from EU customs duties in many cases because a customs duty is only due if the value of the goods exceeds 150 euros. However, the extremely low-cost store only manages this because orders are sent in small parcels with a goods value below the customs threshold. However, if the customs authorities discover this, it can be really expensive: buyers have to pay the fees incurred themselves.
And that’s not all: due to the long delivery times to Europe, parcels may not even arrive. The consumer advice center, therefore, advises not to pay until after delivery and never to pay for the ordered products in advance; otherwise, you may be stuck with these costs.

“Hot appliance”: lack of safety standard
However, the financial trap is not the only problem that online shoppers may have to face. Another risk is the lack of certification for the products on offer. Stiftung Warentest warns of serious deficiencies in the quality and safety of the products being sold. This is because products from Asian markets that are offered on Wish, Temu or AliExpress often do not meet European safety standards. This can be particularly dangerous when it comes to electronic goods, children’s toys, or clothing.

According to Stiftung Warentest, you should always make sure that electronic devices bear the “CE mark” in order to minimize potential risks.

Buy everything, know everything? Data protection in online stores
In addition to the financial and health risks, shopping on platforms such as Wish, Temu and AliExpress also harbors completely invisible dangers. Keyword: data protection. NRW consumer protection warns that personal data in such stores is not secure. Basically, there is little transparency on how user data is collected and used on these shopping platforms. According to lawyer Christian Solmecke, the Temu app is particularly interested in its buyers’ data, including the use of location services, access to the camera and microphone, and the contact list.

“Fake it till you make it”: a scam for the masses
According to Solmecke, in addition to breaches of data protection law, Temu also breaches competition law, which can deceive consumers. Specifically, this relates to so-called lightning offers or time-limited free shipping. The timer stated on the website or in the app does not expire as announced, according to Temu, but is reset after the time has expired and restarted.

However, time-limited offers are not the only thing that extremely cheap stores use to entice customers. Counterfeits or copies of expensive products also promise a shopping experience true to the Temu motto, “Shop like a Billionaire”. Sometimes you will find a watch with an Apple design, sometimes a dress designed by Versace. There are also numerous products with forbidden symbols.

The problem is that buying counterfeit goods and items with prohibited symbols is illegal. Lawyer Christian Solmecke warns on YouTube about possible customs inspections that confiscate and destroy counterfeit and prohibited items. In the worst-case scenario, consumers may even be held liable for trademark and design infringements under certain circumstances.

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