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Is AliExpress Legit and Trustworthy? Is It Safe to Shop There? What is AliExpress? Is it safe to shop on? Are there any security risks? We shopped there several times and here's what we found. So you've found a bargain on But is it safe to shop there, or is AliExpress a scam? How long will items take to arrive, and what happens if they don't? Here are the answers you need. What Is AliExpress? If you're not familiar with AliExpress, here's a quick primer. It's a huge online retailer owned by the Alibaba Group, which is a multi-billion dollar corporation that started as a business-to-business buying and selling portal. It has since expanded to business-to-consumer, consumer-to-consumer, cloud computing, and payment services. To give you an idea of just how big Alibaba is, they reported over $85 billion in sales during the 11/11 Singles' Day event period in 2021. AliExpress is Alibaba's online consumer marketplace for international buyers (while TaoBao is for domestic Chinese). It allows small businesses in China to sell to customers all over the world. Just like Amazon, you can find just about anything there. Unlike Amazon though, all of the sellers on AliExpress are a third party. AliExpress itself does not sell anything. It just provides the marketplace. That means your experience can vary wildly depending on the seller. Why Is AliExpress So Cheap? If you browse some of the products on AliExpress, you'll probably notice right away that many of the prices are really low. Why is this? There are a number of possible reasons, all of which are common. You're Buying Direct First, there's the possibility that you're buying directly from a manufacturer, which reduces the cost of selling to you. Costs for production in China are quite a bit lower than in other countries. The lax enforcement of intellectual property laws may also contribute. Many electronics (like this 4WD Arduino robot we built) have fantastic prices on AliExpress, because they're made in China and you can buy them directly from the manufacturer. That means you avoid the retail mark-up added by a middle-man. It's Fake The second possibility for an item being extremely cheap is that it's either fake or fell off the production line, possibly as a rejection from stringent brand quality assessments. China is known as a hotbed of counterfeit production, and AliExpress is no exception. Unless it's a Chinese brand, the likely of finding genuine branded good on AliExpress are slim to none. That's why you have to watch out for AliExpress scams. Listing Tricks In order to compete against hundreds of other sellers offering the same product for a similar price, some sellers will employ shady listing practices. The most common one is to include a small accessory as an optional purchase, which is cheaper than the main product. The cost of the accessory-not the main product-is displayed in the search results. In the example below, you can see a brick toy that was advertised as $4.64. That's pretty good for a 541pc building set! But click through, and you'll see the seller has added "bag of ten balls" at $4.64. The brick toy actually costs $56.93. That's quite a difference. AliExpress offers some excellent deals, but not all products are legit, and things are rarely as cheap as they initially seem. You can get all sorts of counterfeit items there, from electronics to clothing. Of course, being able to tell the difference between a legit deal, shady listing, and obvious ripoff is crucial when buying something from AliExpress. How Long Does AliExpress Take to Deliver? All items on AliExpress have an estimated delivery time on the product page, and it's usually anywhere from 20 to 60 days. It's also wildly inaccurate in my experience, so best ignored. Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, AliExpress increased the "Buyer Protection Time" to up to 90-days. That's another way of saying you have to wait 90-days before getting a refund for something not delivered. Yes, three months is an awfully long time to wait for something you've bought online! That doesn't mean it will take 90 days-just that it could. In my experience, about two weeks is the average time it takes most items to arrive. Over half of the 30+ items we ordered during 11/11 sales arrived within two weeks. Unfortunately, this also depends upon the shipping method used. In 2018, AliBaba launched its own shipping service called Cainao, with their own warehouses and shipping partners in major countries. Cainao Global Economy, I have found, is terrible. Even if you're notified that a package has arrived in your country, it can then sit in the Cainao warehouse for a month or more before finally being delivered. Of the three packages I've had delivered by Cainao, one took two and a half months to be delivered; and another was lost (though I received a full refund, eventually). AliExpress Standard Shipping, on the other hand, is usually delivered by Airmail, then the last mile is handled by your standard local mail service (Royal Mail in the UK, or USPS in the USA). Courier shipping services such as DHL or UPS are the most reliable, though of course, they're a premium service. All shipments (even those with free shipping) will have a tracking number once shipped- but it may take a week to actually dispatch a package before a tracking number is added. After that, you should be able to follow the package as it floats around various Chinese postal centers, and after a long wait, arrives in your country's customs clearance office. If you don't have a tracking number after 10 days, you should reach out to the seller. You won't be able to open an official non-delivery dispute until the maximum delivery time has been exceeded, though. Over the past decade and having spent thousands of dollars on AliExpress, I've only had to open a handful of disputes for non-delivery. One could be tracked to my local customs office, but had been sitting there for a month. The seller offered to send it again, and sure enough, I actually received both packages about a month later. Other instances resulted in a full refund. On one occasion, only part of an order was delivered. Unfortunately, because the seller had a tracking number, it showed as delivered, regardless of whether only part of the order had arrived. AliExpress ruled in their favor, and I wasn't able to get a refund. The moral of this story is to film yourself unboxing everything! EU and UK Automatic Taxation; USA Up to $800 In the past, sellers have tended to declare goods as a generic "gift" with a low item value, which meant the package was exempt from further taxes. The taxman has now caught onto this loophole, it would seem, at least in Europe. From July 2021, shoppers from EU countries will find that orders under €150 will automatically have VAT added on by AliExpress at the checkout. This cost is not reflected on the sales page, which is already the case for UK customers since January 2021. The tax is automatically added once you click the checkout button, so factor in an additional 20% when looking at the product page. Packages over €150/£135 value will not have VAT added automatically; this will be handled by the shipping company instead, and you'll also be liable for the additional handling charge, as well as possibly import duty. For orders to the USA, you're in the clear as long as your order value doesn't exceed $800. Beyond that, you'll be liable for 25% import tax. What About AliExpress's Quality of Goods? In most cases, the goods you buy will be the same as those you find on the high street. However, sometimes you may find yourself unhappy with the product. Perhaps the thickness of material for a dress is not as you expected, or the colors are different. In that case, you should be realistic when contacting the sellers. Unless there's something specific in the listing that you can point to as being incorrect, simply not liking the goods you bought is not a good reason to demand a refund. So what can you do if you're not happy? Chalk it up to experience, and don't buy from that seller again. If the item was actually delivered, and the product description and photo are accurate, AliExpress themselves won't assist. You got what you paid for. You might be able to negotiate a partial refund. If your first instinct was to review the product as 1-star, this is probably no longer an option. Ratings are important, and may be your only bargaining tool. You might be tempted to return the goods, but be very careful with this. Shipping something back to China is expensive---often more than you paid for the item in the first place, and that cost won't be refunded. Tracking items sent back into China is unreliable at best, and sometimes they can just disappear entirely at the Chinese customs office. Be realistic about the price you're paying. Check out some YouTube videos for an idea of the kind of quality to expect ("AliExpress haul videos" are a thing now). Moreover, once you've found a shop you trust, consider adding it to your "Follow" list to buy from again. The Real Danger of AliExpress: Fraudsters and Fakes AliExpress and AliPay are solid systems when it comes to security. They're not invincible, but nothing is–and their track record is a good one. So, you can be confident that you're no more likely to have your information stolen via one of these services than you are using a more familiar service like Amazon or eBay (remember, even eBay had a massive data leak). I've had various credit cards stored in my AliPay account for a long time, and never experienced fraud. But bear in mind, I live in the EU, so my credit card is protected with chip-and-pin technology, as well as a verification code on the rear which isn't stored. US shoppers still suffer from decades-old financial technology that's a lot easier to commit fraud with. Have the same questions about Wish? Check out our guide on how to shop safely on Wish. Never Buy Branded Goods on AliExpress Brands are offered special protection in most countries. You may not care if a product is legit or not, but if you purchase fake goods, and your package is inspected, they will be seized. If you bought a lot of those goods, and it looks like you might be trying to sell them on, expect a knock at the door from customs officials. The exception to this rule is Chinese brands, which will often have an official AliExpress storefront. Check the Seller's Feedback Before Buying If a seller has a bad reputation for defrauding buyers, there will likely be evidence in their feedback and reviews. Be wary of sellers with any mentions of not delivering or sending sub-par goods. Also, be wary of stores with generic names such as "shop325423456" that were created within the last six months. Check Your Order Carefully When You Receive It Because the escrow system allows you to withhold payment until you've received your order, you can confirm that you got what you paid for. Make sure everything is included, that it looks like what you ordered, and that, if you bought a brand-name item, it doesn't look like a fake. You might even want to film the unboxing so that if your order is incomplete, you have evidence. Once you've marked an item as received, you have 15 days in which you can still open a dispute about the goods. Be Careful With Storage, Memory, and Graphics Cards It's a common scam even if you're buying from a Shenzhen market stall, but even easier to pull off online. You buy a memory stick that reports itself to be 64Gb when put into Windows Explorer, but it's actually a lot less. The firmware has been hacked, but you won't know until you actually try to use the whole drive. The scammer is long gone with your money. If you're willing to risk it anyway, be sure to test the drive with a tool like h2TestW as soon as you receive it. With the recent Chinese government crackdown on cryptocurrency mining, you should also be wary of buying a graphics card, as many miners will be trying to offload second-hand cards. There's nothing wrong with buying secondhand, of course, but the stresses produced by occasional gaming versus a year of intensive 24/7 mining are quite different. How to Get a Refund on AliExpress If a package just doesn't arrive, or you have some other issue, open a dispute with the seller. You start the process by using the "helpful" Eva customer service bot, located in the bottom right after you've logged into your orders overview page. Click the relevant problem from the choices given, and wait as the bot loads your orders. At this point, it's important to remember due to supply chain and shipping issues, the protection time has been extended to 90 days for most orders. If your order is still within this delivery window, you will not be able to open a dispute. If the delivery window has expired, or you're reporting some other quality issue, Eva will ask you to confirm that you want to open a dispute; then the process of negotiating with the seller starts. You can add evidence to support your claim if needed. The seller may reject your claim, or suggest some alternative, like a partial refund; which you can then accept or reject. This continues until both parties have accepted a resolution. If a resolution is not found within around 45 days (it's not exactly clear how they derive this date), an AliExpress agent will then step in and make a judgement. While I've personally experienced few problems in requesting a refund, it's clear from hearing the feedback of other users that new customers are treated differently to existing customers. If this is your first order, it's possible that any refund request will be rejected, because AliExpress has no reason to keep you happy. In that case, filing a chargeback on your credit card may be the only option. So, Is AliExpress Safe to Shop On? The evidence suggests that shopping on AliExpress is indeed safe. However, be careful and realistic. There are bargains to be had; just as many as there are poor quality products and scammers. That said, many of the same sellers now list on eBay and Amazon, too, and the price isn't much different. Given that eBay and Amazon offer significantly better consumer protections, I'd recommend buying there over AliExpress where possible, even if it does cost a little more. If the item you want is only available on AliExpress, or the price is significantly different, make sure you check the seller out before purchasing the item.

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