With some Chinese shopping websites now becoming popular all over the world, such as Alibaba.com, and many people looking for a bargain online, we investigate whether it is safe to buy stuff over the internet from a shop in China for delivery abroad...
China is the workshop of the world, more and more of the things we buy are made over there. Even if it has been designed in the UK or USA and sold here, there is a very good chance that it was made and manufactured in China. With so much of the stuff we consume made in China could we not just cut out the middleman and buy straight from China instead of from a shop in our own country?
One of the most popular places to shop from in China is Aliexpress.com, it is the consumer version of Alibaba and owned by the same people. There is an abundance of products, many at unbelievable prices, especially tech or electronics related.
For instance there is a huge range of deca core mobile phones, for about $200 USD, mostly are Chinese brands, but if you are not brand fussy you could get a top of the range processor in your mobile for next to nothing.
Although many items seen to be ridiculously cheap it is important to consider shipping costs, so be sure to double check that the cost includes shipping. Many items do include this cost in the price but some don't and large items can become very expensive.
Import Duty and VAT
Another cost to consider is customs duty and VAT. These you will have to pay if the value of the item is above a certain amount. For VAT don't spend over £15, otherwise 20% will be added by the taxman. The import duty threshold is a bit higher at £135, so try and stick below this amount to avoid customs. Be sure to add these costs into your calculations when buying, even with taxes to pay your purchase may still work out cheaper.
The UK shopper has quite a lot of rights. As do people in the EU and the USA. Consumer law is normally governed by the country where you make your purchase, and we have reciprocal rights with the EU. But it can be a little 'wild west' if you shop in China. Whilst many shops, such as AliExpress do have guarantees and systems in place to help ensure a safe transaction, you should be aware that you won't have as many rights as if you were shopping at home.
Whilst returns maybe possible, it is worth checking who will have to pay the return postage before purchasing from China.
Good advice is to shop using your credit card, because there are certain levels of protection you can get from your card provider, these are enshrined in UK consumer law. See our consumer advice for more information.
So the answer is not black and white. If you have done your research and checked the prices and are happy then go for it. If not then it might not be worth the risk, but follow the advice in this article and you should minimise the risks involved.