Is Alibaba legit? Alibaba.com is one of the largest eCommerce companies in the world, specialized in selling Chinese wholesale merchandise. Not to be confused with AliExpress, a sister company established by the same founder Jack Ma, but aimed at retail.
Although Alibaba.com has become very popular over the years, there are still many people who don’t trust this platform.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was easy for Chinese companies to deliver a container full of garbage or to engage in payment fraud. Nowadays, this type of scams have become much rarer, and checks have increased.
However, today there are new risks associated with online purchases. So is Alibaba Legit? In this article we will list the main problems with buying from Alibaba, and explain how to avoid them.
Is Alibaba Legit? The advantages and disadvantages
Alibaba is a site dedicated to wholesaling: Chinese manufacturing companies can decide to open their own store on this platform and start trading with buyers located all over the world.
The goods sold are therefore not owned by Alibaba, which is just a marketplace, but by the suppliers who are consequently responsible for the orders and the quality of the goods.
Payments for items that can be purchased on Alibaba are concluded outside the platform as a private negotiation: supplier and buyer can in fact agree on their own via e-mail, chat or telephone.
In fact, Alibaba does not ask for commissions on these transactions, but earns thanks to the “Gold Supplier” program which can be accessed for a fee only by suppliers who have proven to be real companies with suitable certification, share capital, and registered office.
Buy on Alibaba for your business: the advantages
On Alibaba, you can find tons of Chinese suppliers selling wholesale goods.
The advantages are several:
- Big choice of products;
- Big choice of suppliers;
- Possibility of concluding private agreements;
- No price increases by Alibaba;
- Low Item prices;
- Ability to create custom merchandise.
The biggest problems customers face
Surely while it is true that choosing to buy on Alibaba is advantageous, you have to be careful if you don’t want to run into scams.
In fact, if you talk to customers who have used this service, the main problems encountered were the following:
1 Quality or certification issues
In order to be imported into European countries, the USA or other countries with strict quality controls, goods from China must be provided with specific certifications that certify that they comply with the regulations of the various countries.
Some of the most requested documents are:
- product labeling (such as CE marking)
- electrical safety
- product packaging
- components for beauty products (e.g. ROAS)
- the effectiveness of electrical components
- product packaging
- prohibited or dangerous substances (for example AZO colors, lead, or formaldehyde)
There are only a few companies on Alibaba, that are able to supply products that comply with these rules, and to certify this with the right documentation.
It is therefore important to avoid choosing a supplier based only on price, because the responsibility for the conformity of the goods falls on the importer, meaning on you.
The advice when buying wholesale goods from Alibaba is to make sure with the supplier that there is all the necessary documentation for the passage through customs.
Or, even before buying on Alibaba, choose suppliers who put online the scans of the certificates of their products, their production facilities and their business in general.
This in most cases is proof that they are genuine suppliers. But be careful, because some suppliers may use fake certificates: the solution will then be to contact the company or organization indicated in the documents and ask for the verification of those certificates.
2. Unknowing purchase of copyrighted products
When browsing on Aliababa.com you can find merchandise of all kinds and therefore you may end up buying products protected by intellectual property.
In order to purchase these items, the manufacturer will need a special agreement with the license holder and will then have to pay the fixed or ongoing fees for each item.
In China, most suppliers have no such agreement, but they still use these products without the owner’s approval.
Let’s take for example a shirt with Mickey Mouse on it, we all know that he is a Disney character and that therefore his image is protected by intellectual property and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the company.
But sometimes the limit is much more subtle, if we talk about tapware for the kitchen or small appliances such as WIFI headphones, are you sure you can recognize by yourself which ones are importable and which ones we have are protected?
Buying products with intellectual property is illegal and the fault lies with the importer, which is you.
Once stopped at customs, these products are seized and a fine is issued to the importer which could also incur more serious criminal consequences.
The advice is to stay away from this type of products, and check with the patent directories that you can actually sell the products you chose.
3. Fake items
Before buying merchandise on Alibaba you need to know that it is impossible to find original branded products on this site as it is from any other Chinese supplier that sells wholesale merchandise.
Branded products (e.g. iPhones) can only be marketed by the company’s official resellers so if you find similar products on Alibaba they are probably fakes.
Obviously, even in this case, buying fake products is illegal and once you get to customs the responsibility lies with the importer who risks fines and penalties.
If you want to avoid scams the only way is to not buy products that are clearly fake and stay away from suppliers who try to sell products with famous brands online because they will not be 100% original.
4. Delays in shipments
Another problem that Alibaba buyers often face is the considerable delay in shipping the goods.
Although a specific date has been established in the order for sending the goods, it often happens that it is not respected.
Fixing this problem is quite difficult because payments usually occur before acceptance of the quote proposal and at the end of production.
The only precaution that can be taken is to pay by letter of credit so that the Bank manages the money and distributes it only when the goods are actually sent.
However, the letter of credit is not an easy to use and obtainable banking tool.
The advice is to read customer reviews before choosing a supplier over another and intercept any negative experiences that include delays in shipping: if most users have had the same experience it will be better to avoid that supplier.
5. Reliability of the supplier
Today is rarer than in the past, but it is possible that the supplier accepts an order and then disappears without having completed it.
Especially before the Chinese New Year, suppliers sometimes accept orders that they know they won’t be able to complete before the holidays. They accept the money for the pre-order and then disappear for 15 or more days (the length of the holidays).
To avoid meeting such suppliers, the advice is to look at the supplier’s registration date on Alibaba, check customer reviews and verify that they are gold suppliers.
To ensure that customers can find the most reliable suppliers, in fact, Alibaba has created the status of “Gold Supplier”, which in the Italian version of the site is referred to as “Gold Supplier”.
These are the suppliers who have never received complaints and for now they are few: only about 10% of those present on the site.
Alibaba then carries out checks on the companies included in this program to ensure that they are regularly registered companies, with an operational address, a legal representative and a share capital.
As seen by analyzing the main problems encountered by customers in using Aliababa.com, the main criticism is that Alibaba is limited to being a point of contact between sellers and buyers, but offers few guarantees.
In fact, you can find suppliers who are not serious, goods that are not in line with EU directives or without the documents suitable for passing customs; in other words, there is no intermediary between you and China and you will have to think about solving any problems related to payments, defects in goods, transport, logistics, customs clearance or shipping because the supplier may decide to back off and leave you in trouble.
Is Alibaba Legit? How to shop safely
By introducing the “Golder Supplier” label, Alibaba has in a sense helped buyers make safer purchases.
From this point of view, in fact, users who buy on e-commerce generally feel safer if the seller is judged reliable by the people who have already purchased from him.
Customer reviews are useful for creating an opinion and companies have understood this well: it is no coincidence that many suppliers offer their buyers refunds or discounts if they leave a good rating expressing a high rating, and in this case we are talking about real online scams.
If you want to conclude a purchase on Alibaba, the advice is therefore to evaluate only the Gold Suppliers and that they have possibly already been for a few years.
However, this does not protect you 100%, if in fact a gold supplier is denounced by an Alibaba customer it deletes him from the list of reliable suppliers, but in any case it is not excluded that this could be included simply by changing the name of his company.
The alternative to Alibaba
If you are still worried wether is Alibaba legit, and you want to buy wholesale from China, there is an alternative, you can decide to rely on Yakkyofy, an Italian company that deals with the importation of wholesale goods with China.
With us, you will only come into contact with reputable Chinese suppliers and you will not have to worry about anything.
In fact, Yakkyofy will assist you in:
- Finding reliable suppliers;
- Checking the quality of your goods;
- Checking the products documentation;
- Negotiating with the suppliers;
- Arranging shipping and customs clearance.
With Yakkyofy you will not have to worry about anything, thanks to our decades of experience in importing from China we are able to accompany you throughout the supplier search process, we can help you create customized goods with your logo and we help you import them into Italy by assisting you. until the end.
With us you will not have any problems because we will deliver your goods directly to your home.