Temu's Super Bowl ads spark backlash over China-based firm's forced labor allegations

Temu bought several ads during the Super Bowl, which drew the scrutiny of lawmakers who criticized the retail giant

Fast fashion retailer Temu’s Super Bowl ads drew the ire of lawmakers in Congress over the China-based company’s links to products made with the use of forced labor in Xinjiang as well as its data-sharing policies.

Temu, which is linked to e-commerce firm Pinduoduo through their shared parent company PDD Holdings, ran several ads that encouraged viewers to download its app so they can "shop like a billionaire" and be eligible for $10 million in giveaways on the site. 

Temu’s Super Bowl ads cost roughly $7 million each — which was the going rate for 30-second ads during this year’s big game — and come as part of a $3 billion marketing push this year as the company looks to claw market share away from companies like Amazon. The company also ran a Super Bowl ad last year as it looked to gain market share among U.S. consumers.

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Temu App

Temu has been accused of having insufficient safeguards to keep products made with forced labor out of its supply chain. (CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Members of Congress took to social media to call out Temu’s data practices and links to forced labor in China as they sought to advise American consumers against downloading the app.

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Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter: "Just like TikTok, Temu or any Chinese tech company must allow the Communist Party unfettered access to its data. This should be a non-starter for doing business in the United States."

Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Calif., who is a member of the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the U.S. and the Chinese Communist Party, wrote: "It’s Super Bowl Sunday! While you’re watching this game, keep an eye out for ads from Temu, a company profiting from CCP slave labor. This company should not be allowed to profit by manipulating American consumers."

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Shein and Temu logos and Uhygur workers in field

Chinese e-commerce platforms Shein and Temu have sued each other and have faced scrutiny in the U.S. over a lack of safeguards to ensure they don't sell goods made with forced labor. (Davide Bonaldo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images // David Henley/Pictures from History/Universal Images Group via Getty Images // Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto / Fox News)

Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., wrote in a post on X that the Super Bowl featuring a Temu commercial should "be a wake up call to all Americans." She added, "Temu is being sued for stealing customer financial info and having spyware embedded in their app. All that data is owned and controlled by the CCP. Don’t download this app!"

Temu is facing class action lawsuits in Illinois and New York that allege the company deceptively collected customer data through permissions that allowed it to access Bluetooth and Wi-Fi network information as well as biometric data, and that it failed to adequately safeguard that data.

Temu did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has previously denied that it has lax privacy policies and failed to properly safeguard customer data in response to the lawsuits.

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Temu Pinduoduo

Temu is a subsidiary of Chinese e-commerce giant Pinduoduo. (Lam Yik/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Chairman of the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the U.S. and the Chinese Communist Party Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., told FOX Business: "It’s disappointing to see broadcasters turn a blind eye to Temu’s comprehensive failure to prevent Uyghur forced labor in its supply chains. Companies complicit in the Uyghur genocide should have no place in primetime ad slots."

In June 2023, the select committee announced the interim findings from an investigation into links between Temu and Shein, another China-based e-commerce platform, and products made with forced labor from Uyghurs and other persecuted ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang province.

The report found that Temu and Shein have exploited U.S. de minimis provisions to evade customs enforcement. De minimis rules allow nearly all of their products valued under $800 to enter the U.S. uninspected and free from duties that most American clothing brands pay. It also found that Temu lacks a system for ensuring compliance with the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.

Gallagher said in a statement at the time, "These results are shocking: Temu is doing next to nothing to keep its supply chains free from slave labor. At the same time, Temu and Shein are building empires around the de minimis loophole in our import rules – dodging import taxes and evading scrutiny on the millions of goods they sell to Americans."

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Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., added, "The initial findings of this report are concerning and reinforce the need for full transparency by companies potentially profiting from CCP forced labor. Our Select Committee heard from experts under oath that these practices persist to this day and we intend to strengthen laws like the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to put an end to them once and for all."