Temu U-turns on terms of cash ‘giveaway’ offer

Temu U-turns on terms of cash ‘giveaway’ offer

Electronics retailer China Temu has significantly changed its cashback terms after customers raised concerns.

Participants in the promotion – which has gone viral on social media – receive up to £50, but have to agree to hand over large amounts of personal data permanently.

Previously, Temu had said these were “standard terms and conditions”.

But now it says it has “modified” the term because it is “too broad”.

Data watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office, which has been looking into concerns about Temu’s offer, said it would “continue to consider the concerns raised”.

The Chinese-owned online marketplace launched in the US in 2022 and the UK last year.

It has been described as “Amazon on steroids” by retail experts and is known for selling goods at extremely low prices, using the slogan “shop like a millionaire”.

But it has faced criticism from politicians, with a US government investigation finding a “very high risk” that Temu’s products could be made with forced labour.

What is a Dating campaign?
The firm’s giveaway gives new users 24 hours to sign up others using a shareable link to each receive a cash reward of between £40 and £50 – paid to their PayPal account – or in Temu store credit.

Existing Temu account holders can also participate, but apparently need to meet a higher threshold for the rewards.

Thousands of users eager to cash in on the promotion have been seen posting links across social media sites.

But it has also been the subject of memes and posts examining the rules.

The section that received the most scrutiny states that “except to the extent prohibited by applicable law”, participants give the company permission to use and publish “photos, names, likenesses, voices, opinions, statements, biographical information and/or hometowns them and the state” for advertising or promotional purposes.

It added this could happen in any media around the world and “in perpetuity” – meaning with no fixed end date.

One such post on X (formerly Twitter) with a screenshot of the campaign’s rules of use and publicity was viewed more than two million times, according to the platform’s metrics.

A number of other X users claimed the rule would allow Temu to sell their data or even create fake ads – although the claims were vehemently denied by the retailer.

But now, the fast-growing Chinese-owned retailer has changed those rules, saying “some participants” in the cash offer had “expressed concerns”.

It said it had “modified” the terms and conditions “to clarify that we have only ever used usernames and profile pictures in this promotion for referral functions and winner announcements”.

“The previous terms and conditions were too broad and inadvertently included the use of promotions that Temu was not involved in,” he added.

“Customer trust and satisfaction is at the core of Temu, and we do not and will not sell customer data.”

This is a U-turn compared to the company’s previous statements.

Previously, a Temu spokesperson said gifting was common across many different firms and industries, and cited its e-commerce rival Shein as an example of a firm running promotions with “very similar terms and conditions”.

“If the standard terms and conditions for this running promotional activity are newsworthy, then we urge you to be fair and report their use by other companies instead of opting for Temu,” the spokesperson said.

Sensitive data
Experts have also raised concerns about the terms of the promotion.

“Giving Dating permission to use your ‘voice’ and ‘biographical information’ is sure to worry its customers,” says Lisa Webb, Which? consumer law expert.

“This offer is going viral on social media, including among young people, but consumers definitely need to consider whether they are comfortable giving away this sensitive data in exchange for cash.”

He has added that “while Temu is not the first platform to collect excessive data, there are definite question marks over whether asking permission for personal data to be used ‘worldwide’ is proportionate in any case”.

Jonathan Kirsop, data protection partner at law firm Pinsent Mason, has told BBC News that it is not a word he has used before and the activity implied may be “problematic”.

The previous terms may breach UK data protection regulations, which require the user’s consent to be freely given, specific and revocable in order to be relied upon as a ground for data processing.

“Although not always prohibited, making the provision of services conditional on consent to the use of personal data is often illegal on the basis that the user may not be considered to have a free choice in conveying that consent, especially when the data in question is sensitive, such as biometric data,” he said.

The use of voice data – which is considered biometric data under the UK’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – has a higher threshold for lawful use and consent in the UK because it carries greater risks, he added.

‘Clear and transparent’
The data regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office, previously said it was “aware of the reports on Meet” and “considered the concerns raised.”

In a new review, made after Temu changed its terms and conditions, the data watchdog said: “Organisations must be clear and transparent about how and why they collect and use people’s personal information, and ensure people can make fully informed decisions about whether to hand over data them.”

“We are aware of the reports about Temu, and subsequent updates to the terms and conditions, and continue to consider the concerns raised.”

Awais Rashid, professor of cyber security at the University of Bristol, has told BBC News that apps collecting a lot of data – often more than is actually required from users – has become commonplace.

He said that, as well as cash incentives or long, sometimes “uninterpretable” privacy policies and terms, can make the decision more difficult and unbalanced when deciding whether we as individuals should part with our data to use a service or not.

“Every time such an offer is offered, we must always look: what are the consequences of this, and how much data will we collect, how will it be used, and are we comfortable with that?” he said.

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