The number of European customers on Chinese AliExpress is growing continuously. That’s why we would like to introduce you to how to do your shopping on AliExpress safely and where to put your attention not to be deceived. Unlike the Alibaba.com website, which is directed mainly to importers, trading companies, and wholesalers, on AliExpress, there are no stereotypical Chinese frauds like changing a bank account number or a non-existent company in China. However, this does not mean that buying through AliExpress is completely safe.
What is AliExpress?
AliExpress is a Chinese website addressed to individual users around the world who want to start importing small amounts of products from China (remember that by shopping on AliExpress, you become an importer, but more on that later in this guide). It is a website where you can easily order almost any product at a low price and low quantity. There are a few things that are worth paying attention to when reducing the risk of buying.
If you intend to import products via AliExpress to England, the United States, or other Western countries, see the following tips on how to buy on AliExpress!
Import of products through AliExpress
Users of AliExpress can be divided into two groups:
- private customers buying products for their own use
- people buying to resell the goods.
1. Buying for personal use
If you plan to buy goods on the AliExpress portal for your own use and you want to avoid additional customs and fiscal charges, you must remember one simple rule.
When importing to Europe, if the total value of the ordered goods in one package does not exceed EUR 150, you do not have to pay the duty (customs rates can be checked in the TARIC system). However, VAT may be charged for this.
Whether you are buying goods with a low declared value or importing larger quantities, always keep in mind customs inspections that are conducted randomly.
2. Import of goods from AliExpress and resale
Most of the products displayed on the AliExpress portal are manufactured in China for the domestic market. These are not bad products, but often they do not meet the safety standards required in Europe, the United States, or Australia. Importing products that do not meet EU and safety standards is illegal. The importer is responsible for any accidents that may happen after selling the product.
REMEMBER! The importer is always responsible for the goods and guarantees the goods’ compliance with the target market’s standards. Chinese producers and people selling goods on AliExpress are not responsible for the goods. It is crucial to ensure the correct marking of the goods.
If you decide to import goods, check the standards and directives required for the product in a given country. We recommend you check all the documents provided by the supplier before completing the payment. Remember about the mandatory marking, e.g. CE in the EU. Without proper marking and documentation, a product imported from China will not be allowed to trade on the target market.
Step 1 - Searching for a product and seller on AliExpress
1. Seller Selection
Unlike Alibaba.com, where companies have full profiles, the information about sellers on AliExpress is very limited. This makes it difficult to select a good supplier. However, the website provides access to buyers’ comments, which are visible and available to everyone.
Choose suppliers who have a lot of positive feedback.
We also recommend that you read these negative comments to get a complete description of the provider.
2. Selection of goods
The website offers millions of different products. To start shopping, registration is necessary. However, offers can be viewed without creating an account. AliExpress offers several main categories that are divided into dozens of sub-categories. The main categories include:
- jewelry and watches
- consumer electronics
- tools and DIY
- suitcases and bags
- fashion accessories
- phones and accessories
- computers and office supplies
- beauty and health
- toys and hobbies
- sports and entertainment
- home and garden.
3. What products should I avoid?
If you are unsure about the product meeting expected standards, avoid them. It applies mainly to machines and specialized electronics. Many buyers on AliExpress claim that they do not buy products that might influence their good health or life (e.g. extension cords, electric pots, small household appliances).
Additionally, we recommend that you do not buy high-end brands products. You can find them at very low prices; however, remember that you cannot buy the latest original iPhone in China for USD 100 or popular brands’ clothes for a few dollars. Also, when you decide to buy a counterfeit product, you can face a high penalty.
In the event of a package inspection by the customs office and the import of counterfeit goods protected by law and marked with the logo of well-known companies, you may be forced to pay high penalties and bear the costs of destroying the goods. Some known cases of buying counterfeit phones (even without the buyer’s knowledge), and costs of compensation and destruction of the product were higher than USD 1000.
Step 2 - Order and shipment of goods on AliExpress
If you choose a reliable seller on AliExpress, the only thing that you have to do is to choose a shipping method. Many sellers offer free shipping, usually when shipping by China Post Air Mail.
You need to make sure that the shipping is free. Some sellers declare free shipping, then claim that it has been unpaid and try to ship the goods at the recipient’s expense.
If you do not want to wait 2-3 weeks, and sometimes even 5 or more weeks, for a package sent by post (China Post Air Mail shipping usually takes 15-34 days), you can use other shipping methods like EMS or DHL. Shipping time is much shorter, but you will have to pay additional shipping costs (about USD 20-100 - the price depends on the weight and size of your package). If you do not receive your package after 5 weeks, there is the risk that you are a victim of a scam.
Step 3 - Payment
Buying goods on the AliExpress portal is similar to shopping on eBay or Amazon and the same is with payment. Originally, it was necessary to have a credit card. However, now you can also use different payment methods (e.g. via Western Union). You should also check the currency and optional additional costs of exchanging it.
Receipt of goods and disputes with the seller
As we mentioned at the beginning, the goods can be kept by the customs office for inspection. In a separate guide, we have described what to do in such a situation. If the waiting time is longer than it should be, it is worth checking whether customs have not detained our goods and, if so, immediately open a dispute with the seller. This will extend the time for picking up the package.
The sellers on AliExpress do not receive money immediately at the time of sale but only when the buyer receives the package and confirms that everything is fine. Remember that you only have 2 months from the purchase to express your opinion on the purchased goods. In the case of not giving your opinion after this time, the seller will receive money for the goods.
If the goods did not meet your expectations and you are unsatisfied, you can submit a complaint by opening a dispute. Again, you have 2 months for this from the date of purchase. After this deadline, the possibility of opening a dispute is no longer available. Please note that you can wait up to 35 days for delivery. If you do not receive the goods after this period, contact the seller or open a dispute.
In the case of opening a dispute because the package has not been received, we recommend that you wait for approx. 50 days. If we open a dispute too soon, the seller will insist on closing the dispute, saying the package will arrive in a few days. You can open a dispute only once, and once it’s closed, you can’t reopen it.
If the seller does not respond, you will automatically receive a refund after 60 days. Remember to read the item descriptions carefully because AliExpress has a neutral approach to disputes and will not consider the dispute if the seller has a suitable explanation.
Is it worth buying on AliExpress?
The website offers a wide range of products at low prices that we can buy without leaving home. As you can see, shopping on the AliExpress portal is not difficult, and the risk - compared to other imports from China - relatively low. You can reduce them almost to zero while remaining careful.