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Temu, the controversial Chinese e-commerce giant that wants to take on the fight Amazonreturns to the big game on Sunday with a Super Bowl ad calling on lawmakers Big global and CBS do not implement.
The company, owned by PDD companiesrocketed to prominence last year after taking out an ad during the big game just a few months after its founding.
Last year's ad touted Temu's low prices and invited consumers to shop 'like a billionaire'. The multi-million dollar investment put Temu on the map and by the end of 2023 it was the #1 most downloaded app in the US, with monthly active users surpassing 51 million in January, up nearly 300% year over year, according to data from Sensor Tower.
The details of this year's ad have not yet been revealed, but it is already attracting controversy.
The company is trying to win over American shoppers by being the second-best “everything store” with lower prices than its competitors, but lawmakers say it uses slave labor in its supply chain and spies on its customers.
On Wednesday, 11 Republican lawmakers sent a letter to the CEOs of CBS, which broadcasts the Super Bowl, and parent company Paramount, urging them not to publish the ad.
“Since last year's Super Bowl, Congress, through the House Select Committee on the Chinese Community Party, has uncovered alarming findings indicating a pattern of non-compliance by Temu toward illegal products entering the U.S. market.” , the message said.
“In particular, Temu does not have any system to ensure compliance with the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA). This virtually guarantees that shipments from Temu containing products made with forced labor will enter the United States on a regular basis in violation of the UFLPA,” the report says, citing the House of Representatives committee report.
Allowing the broadcast of Temu's commercial “would be a touchdown for the Chinese Communist Party against the home team,” the letter said.
The letter was sent by Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.V., and signed by Reps. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., Jim Banks, R-Ind., Nicole Malliotakis, RN.Y., Christopher Smith, RN.J., Pete Stauber, R-Minn., Ronny Jackson, R-Tex., Michelle Steel, R-Calif., Beth Van Duyne, R-Tex., James Baird, R-Ind. and Mike Carey, R-Ohio.
Paramount and CBS declined to comment.
Allegations of Labor
Temu, along with Shein and other apparel retailers with a manufacturing presence in China, have been under congressional investigation by the Chinese Communist Party's House Select Committee since May.
Although cotton and other raw materials that can be traced to forced labor are a problem throughout the fashion industry, Shein regularly provides data on how often banned cotton is found in its clothing and publishes the results of the audits it conducts of its manufacturers. Other retailers also publish audit results.
Temu has not yet made such data public.
“Company officials lazily point to standard terms and conditions asking suppliers not to use forced labor, but Temu conducts no audits and has no compliance system to prevent supporting cruelty,” said committee member Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo. Friday Bulletin. “The company even admitted that it 'does not expressly prohibit third-party sellers from selling products based on their origin in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region' and completely ignores the Uyghur Law on the Prevention of Forced Labor.”
In a statement to CNBC, Luetkemeyer called Temu's ad “sickening.”
“Some people watch the Super Bowl as much for the commercials as for the game. It is sickening to think that a company built on slave labor and with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party would make a direct appeal to millions of Americans all at once.” said Lütkemeyer. “I hope it just draws attention to the sinister background of both Temu and Pinduoduo if and when people see it. A standout ad for the site's cheap products is lipstick on the ugliest pig around.”
In response, a Temu spokesperson told CNBC that its standards and practices around the use of forced labor are “no different” than those of major e-commerce players such as “Amazon, eBay And Etsy' and the accusations 'are completely unfounded'.
“Before setting up shop and offering products on Temu, each seller must sign an agreement. This document serves as a commitment to maintain lawful and compliant business operations and to strictly adhere to the legal standards and regulations of their specific markets,” said the spokesperson said.
“The use of forced, criminal or child labor is strictly prohibited. The hiring of all our merchants and suppliers must be strictly voluntary. They will respect freedom of association and the rights of workers to bargain collectively. Temu's merchants, suppliers and other third parties must pay their employees and contractors on time and must comply with all applicable local wage and hour laws.