Sunday, June 23, 2024

Chinese shopping app Temu responds to accusations of manipulation

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Chinese shopping app Temu has responded to accusations of “manipulative techniques” in an email received by The South African website on Friday.

‘One of the fastest-growing apps’

The South African website, by way of an AFP article, reported that European consumer groups had accused Temu of using “manipulative techniques” to force users to spend more and other violations of a landmark EU tech law.

Temu, one of the fastest-growing apps, only entered the EU market in April 2023 and has on average around 75 million monthly active users in the 27-country bloc.

Europe’s BEUC umbrella consumer rights group filed a complaint with the European Commission while 17 member organisations in Europe including in France, Germany and Spain have done the same with national authorities.

The groups accuse Temu of “failing to protect consumers and for using manipulative practices which are illegal”, known as dark patterns, and demanded an investigation.

They believe Temu is distorting or impairing consumers’ ability to make “free and informed decisions” while shopping online, in violation of the EU’s mammoth online content law known as the Digital Services Act (DSA).

Under the DSA, all digital platforms must remove illegal content quickly, be more transparent about how they use users’ data and ensure the safety of shoppers online.

The platform fails to provide enough information about traders on Temu, “frequently leaving consumers in the dark about who they are purchasing products from”, BEUC said.

And there is not enough information about how its “opaque” recommendation system works, it added, which is mandatory under the DSA.

Statement

In a statement received by The South African website, a Temu spokesperson said: ‘Temu is a newcomer to Europe, having entered our first markets just over a year ago. During this time, we have listened carefully to feedback from customers, regulatory bodies, and consumer advocacy groups. We have been actively adjusting our service to align with local practices and preferences, and we are committed to full compliance with the laws and regulations of the markets where we operate. We aim not just to meet the minimum legal requirements but to exceed them by adhering to the highest standards of best practices. To achieve this, we work closely with our third-party sellers, regulators, consumer groups, and other stakeholders.

‘Our commitment to compliance and our willingness to engage stakeholders globally can be seen in our proactive actions. In the past week, Temu entered a cease-and-desist declaration with Germany’s VZBV, committing to addressing concerns raised about our practices, many of which are covered by the BEUC’s complaint. Additionally, on Monday, Temu signed a product safety pledge with South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission, committing to a comprehensive system to detect, prevent, and remove unsafe products from circulation.

‘Temu strives to provide innovative and convenient services to consumers while prioritizing their safety. We operate with integrity and are guided by a core set of values that always puts consumers first. We are ready to cooperate swiftly and diligently with stakeholders to ensure consumer safety and the sustainable growth of the platform.

‘Regarding the latest BEUC complaint, we take it very seriously and will study it thoroughly. We hope to continue our dialogue with the relevant stakeholders to improve Temu’s service for consumers. Where we identify areas for improvement, we are eager to work together to enhance our service and to rectify any shortcomings. We hold the interest of consumers at heart and strive to provide a safe and trusted service that is valued by consumers and adds significant value. Our interests in protecting consumers’ interests are mutual and aligned. We are committed to transparency and full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.’

Added Chinese-founded online retailer Shein to the list

Meanwhile, according to the AFP article, Temu, owned by China’s PDD Holdings, has already come under pressure in Europe.

German consumer groups warned Temu earlier this year about similar issues, which led to the platform announcing it would no longer display notices telling consumers to “Hurry up! Over 126 people have this item in their shopping cart”.

It has faced fierce scrutiny elsewhere including in Asia and the United States.

South Korean regulators in April began investigating Temu on suspicion of false advertising and unfair practices.

The EU is expected to add Temu to its list of “very large” digital platforms under the DSA, which will force the company to comply with stricter rules, including providing regular information about how it is mitigating risks.

Brussels has already added Chinese-founded online retailer Shein to that list, which also includes AliExpress, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube among a total of 23 platforms.

Have you ever shopped using Temu or Shein?

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Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse (AFP)

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