Calls For Federal Investigation Into Chinese Online Retailers Shein And Temu Grow Amid Safety Concerns

Lawmakers and consumer advocates are urging federal authorities to investigate Chinese online retailers Shein and Temu over allegations of anti-competitive practices, the use of forced labor, and the sale of potentially hazardous products. The companies, which have spent billions on advertising with American social media giants like Meta and Google, are accused of skirting U.S. trade and safety regulations while targeting vulnerable consumers.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has called on the Department of Homeland Security to investigate Shein and Temu and add them to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act list of violators.

“Private firms and journalists have unearthed compelling evidence that both Shein and Temu are facilitating the entry of goods made with Uyghur forced labor,” Rubio said.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission has reported that Shein products may pose health hazards and environmental risks to American consumers due to the presence of potentially dangerous chemicals such as lead, perfluoroalkyl (PFA), and phthalates. The commission has also raised concerns about potential data breaches and personal security risks associated with the sites.

Robert Bork Jr., president of the Antitrust Education Project, a consumer rights advocacy group, accused the Chinese retailers of stealing market share from legitimate companies that adhere to safety regulations and don’t rely on forced labor. “What isn’t acceptable is to use slave labor and a disregard for consumers’ health to gouge market share from reputable American and European businesses,” Bork told The Center Square.

By shipping directly to consumers, Shein and Temu are able to avoid normal customs processes, enabling them to skip import taxes and regulatory safety checks. Health Canada found a Shein toddler jacket containing 20 times the amount of lead considered safe for children, while a Greenpeace study revealed that some Shein products contained chemicals exceeding levels permitted by European Union regulations.

As pressure mounts for federal action, the debate over the practices of these Chinese online retailers and their impact on American consumers and businesses is likely to intensify.