What is Temu, the company made famous in Super Bowl ads?

The company offers low-priced products but faces customer complaints.

February 12, 2024, 3:14 PM

Super Bowl viewers could hardly miss an ad blitz from e-commerce company Temu promising low prices that allow customers to “shop like a billionaire.”

The company’s app vaulted to second place among the most downloaded free apps on Apple devices, Apple rankings showed Monday.

The platform sells competitively priced versions of everything from sneakers to jewelry to drones. However, Temu has faced concerns of customer dissatisfaction, data risks and lax oversight over the potential use of forced labor in its supply chain, according to the Better Business Bureau and U.S. government reports.

In response to ABC News' request for comment, a Temu spokesperson said the company takes extensive measures to comply with U.S. laws pertaining to its business.

"Though Temu is a young company, we've always prioritized following the rules and regulations. Although we have yet to establish a seasoned team in the U.S. to liaise with regulatory and legislative bodies, our commitment to full compliance has been unwavering since our inception and underpins all of our business activities," the spokesperson told ABC News.

In addition, the spokesperson rebuked concerns about the possible use of forced labor in its supply chain. "Our current standards and practices are no different from those of major U.S. e-commerce platforms, such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy. The allegations in this regard are completely ungrounded," the spokesperson said.

In June, Temu told The AP the company has "zero tolerance" for forced labor, adding that it has taken measures to ensure compliance with U.S. law on the issue.

On its website, the company says it "cares deeply" about data privacy. "Temu does not 'sell' personal information in the traditional sense," the company adds, acknowledging that it does share some data with third parties to improve service.

In a statement to Time in 2022 about its operations, the company said its low prices are made possible by a “deep network of merchants, logistic partners and [Pinduoduo’s] established ecosystem built over the years.”

Temu is a United States-based offshoot of Chinese e-commerce giant Pinduoduo, which boasts one of that country’s most popular apps, selling a wide range of products to more than 750 million users each month, according to a 2022 earnings report.

Launched in 2022, Temu mimics the business model of its sister company, offering just about everything at discounted prices. Even more, customers earn store credit for promoting the company on social media or playing games hosted on its website.

A four-pack of “Oprah-style reading glasses” costs $13.97; a men’s collared shirt bearing the American flag runs $8.90; and a pair of hook earrings costs $3.14, according to the company's website.

PHOTO: The PDD Holdings Inc. logo arranged on a smartphone in Hong Kong, China, on March 21, 2023.
The PDD Holdings Inc. logo arranged on a smartphone in Hong Kong, China, on March 21, 2023.
Chan Long Hei/Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

Since many of Temu’s suppliers operate overseas, the company offers standard shipping times of up to 23 days, Temu says on its website. Express shipping, which costs an extra $12.90, promises delivery within 12 days.

Since local carriers may handle a portion of the delivery process, customer tracking may not be available for every step of the shipping period, Temu says.

The Better Business Bureau graded Temu a C+ rating, noting 1,625 customer complaints closed in the past 12 months.

Since Temu is privately owned, the company does not regularly disclose details about performance, such as its scale and revenue.

The company ships tens of millions of packages to the U.S. each year from roughly 80,000 sellers who list products on its website, according to a report in June 2023 from the U.S. House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party.

The House report also raised concerns about the potential use of forced labor in the company’s supply chain.

Temu’s delivery network includes more than 80,000 suppliers, the report found. The company told House investigators it does not explicitly prohibit sellers on the platform from using suppliers based on their origin in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, an area known for the exploitation of Muslim-minority Uyghurs in forced labor.

“American consumers should know that there is an extremely high risk that Temu’s supply chains are contaminated with forced labor,” the report said.

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