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Chinese e-commerce sales slow in April amid safety concerns

May 20, 2024 - 15:49 By Hwang Joo-young
A Seoul Metropolitan Government official briefs on hazardous substances found in items from Chinese e-commerce platforms. (Newsis)

Chinese e-commerce platforms, including the big three -- AliExpress, Temu and Shein -- suffered a more than 40 percent fall in sales in April, possibly hit hard by consumer concerns over product safety.

According to a Monday report by BC Card, the nation’s largest payment processing company, payments on Chinese e-commerce platforms dropped more than 40 percent last month compared to the previous month. The transaction volume also decreased by 38.1 percent over the same period.

Payments for items priced below 5,000 won ($3.69) suffered a more severe 55.2 percent decrease, while payments for items priced between 5,000 won and 10,000 won and those between 10,000 won and 30,000 won saw 42 percent and 35.2 percent declines, respectively.

More than half the products sold on the Chinese e-commerce platforms were those priced below 30,000 won, the BC report found.

The latest downturn comes after the nation’s customs office recently found hazardous materials in products imported from China. On April 6, the Incheon Main Customs, responsible for the nation’s main gateways Incheon International Airport and Incheon Port, reported that 96 out of 404 accessory items imported by AliExpress and Temu contained carcinogenic materials.

However, Jeong Ji-yeon, secretary general of the Seoul-based nonprofit The Voices for Consumers, anticipated the downturn in sales on Chinese e-commerce platforms is unlikely to persist in the long term, largely due to their attractive pricing.

"To protect consumer safety, effective government measures are needed to apply domestic safety standards to imported products," Jeong said, adding, "Without timely measures, products containing hazardous materials could be distributed in Korea again at any time."

In the meantime, the BC report noted that payments on Korean e-commerce platforms also decreased by 4.9 percent in April from a month earlier. For products below 5,000 won, in particular, payments fell almost 30 percent.