Due Diligence
16
March 2015

Aliexpress Stores - Are They Verified?

There are more than 10,000 stores registered on the Aliexpress platform, but who operates them and just as important – are they verified?

In this article we reveal who can register Aliexpress stores, what information they need to provide and highlight how a shocking lack of transparency leaves Aliexpress consumers in the dark over who they’re really buying from.

Aliexpress Stores – Who Can Register?

Aliexpress’ Logo and Slogan in 2016

Aliexpress is setup as an online B2C platform that allows only Chinese companies to sell their products to foreign customers.

In fact, Aliexpress doesn’t even allow foreigners living in China (including the author of this article) to buy from their platform. Customers must be overseas.

All Aliexpress stores are either owned by Chinese companies or Chinese individuals operating in China.

The important point to note here is that Aliexpress stores are not necessarily registered companies. Many (if not most) Aliexpress stores are operated by Chinese Individuals.

Aliexpress Stores – What is the Registration Process?

The registration process for an Aliexpress store is only documented and available in Chinese and only Chinese individuals and companies are able to register.

Here at China Checkup we wanted to understand what processes Aliexpress has in place for verifying the Chinese individuals that want to operate stores on their platform, so we actually undertook the process to register a store ourselves.

This is what we found out – these are the registration and verification steps stores Chinese individuals have to go through in order to register an Aliexpress store:

Step 1: Register Account

The following details are needed in order to register an account:

  • Email address
  • Password
  • English name
  • Mobile phone number
  • Contact address
Step 2: Declare whether registering as an Individual or a Company
Left: individual account; Right: company account

Note: the final verification process differs depending on which option is chosen here.

Step 3: Register for Alibaba’s payment system, Alipay

Note: Alipay is Alibaba’s cross-border payment system.

Step 4: Account verification

This is where the process takes different paths for individuals and companies.

  • For individuals
  • Submit the following items:
  • Name in Chinese characters
  • Personal ID card number
  • 3 photos taken as illustrated below:
1. Pose with id card; 2. Simple pose; 3. Unique pose

According to what we’ve read on Chinese language blogs and media, the requirement for the third photo was only added in 2014 as an additional anti-fraud measure.

This “unique pose” photo is different for each registration to prevent images being photoshopped. For example the photo above requires hands to be raised, others require today’s newspaper to be displayed etc.

We don’t believe that Aliexpress stores registered before this date have subsequently needed to meet this requirement.

Step 5: There is a step 5 right?

No, that’s it, it is really that simple.

Aliexpress Stores – How are They Rated?

Aliexpress Store Ratings

Aliexpress has implemented a seller rating system based solely on buyer’s reviews.

The performance of each store is indicated on its profile page and is presented like this:

Clicking on the ratings displayed takes you to an in-depth feedback review page where you can read what other users said about their experience at that store.

This system may initially seem to be well implemented with lots of information to read about other customers’ experiences buying from the store, however it is not widely trusted.

On that page you can also determine the date at which the store registered with Aliexpress.

Aliexpress Stores – What Information is Available to Consumers?

We’ve already explained that stores must be registered by Chinese companies or Chinese individuals, and how we can determine their Aliexpress registration date, but what other information can be found out about Aliexpress stores?

The answer, unfortunately, is not very much.

Despite the store registration process we have outlined, Aliexpress fails to make all but the most simple of information available to consumers.

The information that is available is displayed on each Aliexpress stores’ “Contact Details” page, but this information is unverified and in many cases incorrect.

An important point to remember here (to state the obvious) is that English is not the official language of China. If a Chinese store only gives you their English name it might be difficult to determine if they are a registered entity (although possible with our China company verification services).

If a Chinese store-holder only gives you their English name then it will be almost impossible to determine who they really are.

Let’s look at some examples:

Example 1 – Bling Beauty Co., Ltd.

Before being a consumer of this store I’d want to know the following:

  • If the store is called “Bling Beauty Co., Ltd.” than why is the company named “my z” in the contact details page?  – this clearly isn’t a company name! What’s going on?
  • Where is “u District”? – there isn’t a district in Guangzhou with that name! And anyway, what road is it on?

Example 2 – YXF Technology Co., Ltd.

  • No company name defined, despite the store being named “YXF Technology Co., Ltd.” – is this a registered company or not?
  • “Shuichan building 17f” – what road is that on?

Example 3 – Rainbow Fashion Room

  • What is your address and location?
  • “Maggie Pang” – clearly this is not a company name, so why does this information appear here?
  • Who is “Maggie Pang”? This is her English name, but what is her real Chinese name? We know Aliexpress has this information, so why can’t we see it?

Our Conclusion – Key Points

Although Aliexexpress has implemented a rating system based on customer reviews (many though of dubious value), we are really concerned about the lack of information available to consumers about who they are buying from.

Here are some key points to remember:

  • Aliexpress stores can be registered and operated by Chinese individuals, with no legal company registration
  • Aliexpress doesn’t allow users to know whether stores are operated by companies or individuals and individuals are allowed to open stores with names that looks like companies but certainly aren’t – very misleading
  • Aliexpress does not give their consumers access to a store’s verified details – a shocking lack of transparency

To conclude: As an Aliexpress consumer you really don’t know who you are dealing with.

Further reading