Posted: Fri 17th Nov 2023

Illegal weapons for sale on fast-growing online marketplace Temu, claims consumer watchdog Which?

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Nov 17th, 2023

Temu, the fast-growing online marketplace, is failing to prevent the sale of what appear to be illegal weapons and products including knives and axes that should be age-restricted, a Which? investigation has found.

The consumer champion found weapons it believes are illegal, such as batons and folding knives, as well as age-restricted items like axes and knives, sold with no age checks taking place. Some of these products were extremely cheap, with listings starting from £4.48.

Which? is calling for Temu to step up and take responsibility by carrying out better checks and monitoring, and removing dangerous items on its site to stop them ending up in the hands of consumers, particularly those aged under 18. Third-party sellers must be held to account by the platform where breaches are found.

Temu was only launched in September 2022, but it has quickly become one of the most popular online marketplaces in the UK and beyond. It recorded close to 38.8 million downloads worldwide in August 2023, and was the most downloaded app in the UK for the year to August.

Which? believes the lack of controls to prevent minors purchasing age-restricted items and even illegal weapons is particularly concerning given how widely advertised the marketplace is on sites like TikTok.

Photo: Which?

Researchers were able to find weapons that they believe to be illegal for sale on Temu including two folding knives, two knives disguised as keyrings, a survival knife and a baton, found among a wide array of similarly questionable items.

Several of the weapons were listed as ‘self-defence’ items and ‘portable knives’, and researchers were easily able to find them on Temu by searching simple terms including ‘weapons’, ‘hidden knives’ and ‘hidden weapons’.

Which? believes the items are illegal to own, including in a private home, because they are specified as banned weapons by law, including under the Criminal Justice Act (Offensive Weapons) Order 1988 (as amended).

Anyone caught with one of them could face arrest and a prison sentence. The sale of such weapons means they could easily end up in the wrong hands.

The weapons are illegal to sell too. Government guidance on the law states it is ‘an offence for any person to manufacture, sell or hire, offer for sale or hire, expose or have in his possession for the purpose of sale or hire’ any banned weapon.

While the weapons Which? was able to uncover only demonstrate a snapshot of the scale of the issue of illegal items for sale on Temu, for the three listings that stated how many of the products had been sold – sales had hit almost 102,000.

In total, researchers identified six weapons they believed to be illegal and were able to buy seven age-restricted products without any checks, but saw dozens of other listings with products that looked like they could potentially cause harm.

Despite uncovering products that legally need to be age-restricted, which cannot be sold to anyone under 18, researchers were able to set up several accounts on Temu without being asked for a date of birth, order seven age-restricted items and have them delivered without any age verification taking place at any stage.

Verification could have been carried out upon signing up to Temu, when the orders were placed or when the items were dropped off on the doorstep of the delivery address used.

Which? purchased five knives and two axes, all of which cannot be sold to anyone below 18 under the Criminal Justice Act 1988.

Several of the items Which? bought were also delivered with inaccurate labelling. For instance, one of the axes Which? was able to purchase arrived with a physical label on it saying it was a ‘knife for preparing vegetables’, despite it clearly being an axe.

The six listings that stated how many of the ‘age-restricted’ products had been sold had hit over 21,000 sales between them. This is particularly concerning given the potential for the sale of such items to children to fuel knife or weapon-led crime.

Which?’s investigations have repeatedly found unsafe and illegal consumer products being offered for sale on online marketplaces. Currently there is an alarming gap in existing consumer protections. Online marketplaces must be given greater responsibility for the safety of products being sold and for swiftly removing them when unsafe products are identified.

Sue Davies, Which? Head of Consumer Protection Policy, said:

“Temu has had a surge in popularity in the last 12 months but our research shows that it appears to be allowing illegal weapons, including folding knives and batons, and age-restricted products to be made easily available to shoppers using its platform.

“Problems with dangerous products are only going to get worse if new tech giants like Temu continue to be held to weaker standards than high-street retailers.

“The online marketplace needs to improve its checks, monitoring and takedown processes, and ensure third-party sellers cannot list these dangerous items – particularly to young people under the age of 18.”

A Temu spokesperson said: “Temu is committed to complying fully with relevant rules and regulations in all of the markets that we operate in, and we take all reports of violations very seriously.

“After receiving a complaint of a person under 18 purchasing a bladed article from our platform, we immediately removed all related product listings. We also initiated a comprehensive investigation and review of our processes to further strengthen our safeguards and prevent similar cases from occurring again.”

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