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The hidden risks of cheap products - not just condoms

In today's globalized world, access to products from all corners of the globe is easier than ever before. Platforms from China such as Temu, AliExpress and Shein have revolutionized online shopping by offering a wide range of products at very affordable prices. According to a survey by market research company Appinio, as of January 2024, 26% of Germans between the ages of 16 and 65 have already bought something from Temu. Around 200,000 parcels now arrive in Germany from China every day.

Some of these products include condoms, which are products that must be approved as medical devices in Europe and tested for safety in order to offer optimal protection not only against unwanted pregnancies, but also against sexually transmitted diseases. However, the low prices always raise questions about the quality and safety of these products. This blog post looks at the potential risks associated with buying cheap products, especially condoms from the Far East, and gives recommendations on how you can protect yourself.

Quality and safety concerns

The main concerns when buying cheap products, especially condoms, should not just be price, but quality and safety. Condoms are not only used to prevent pregnancy, but also to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, the effectiveness of condoms depends heavily on their quality. Studies* have shown that condoms that do not meet international, American or European quality standards have a higher risk of tearing and leaking, which significantly reduces protection.

Many products from particularly cheap retailers in the Far East can also be very good or offer good value for money. However, condoms have increased safety requirements that you cannot necessarily tell at first glance whether the product meets them. With condoms, or other intimate products such as sex toys and lubricants, it is also important to remember that they come into contact with the body and that the materials are sometimes more contaminated with harmful substances than we would like. In the case of electronic sex toys, there is also the issue of electrical safety, which may not be tested as strictly as in Europe, for example.

How do the e-commerce platforms from China work?

Platforms such as Temu, AliExpress and Shein are known for their low prices. These low costs are often achieved by manufacturing in countries with lower production costs. The products are often purchased by the platforms directly from the manufacturer in large quantities, or even produced directly by the manufacturer only when ordered and shipped directly to the customer. This even saves storage costs and shipping expenses. The products usually arrive in Europe in specially chartered airplanes and are then handed over to the local parcel services. With the flood of parcels that now arrive in Europe every day, customs can only carry out random checks and therefore cannot ensure that all unsafe products are sorted out or that all necessary taxes have been paid in the destination countries. So if you order condoms in Asia, they have to go through customs, but this does not provide a check that gives you the certainty that unsafe products are being sorted out, because not every shipment can be checked.

Condoms that are produced in Asia:

In fact, most condoms are now produced in Asia, even the ones you can buy in Europe and North America from reputable brands. Nevertheless, there are often significant differences in quality. In Europe, for example, strict rules apply to condoms, as they have to be approved as a medical product. In this case, this also applies to production in Asia. Condoms produced for Europe must therefore meet all the requirements of the Medical Devices Act. The factories must undergo very demanding certifications and each condom is tested individually. For Europe, for example, there is a corresponding ISO standard that condoms must meet: DIN EN ISO 4074

But why are condoms mostly produced in Asia in the first place? This is simply because the raw materials grow there. Condoms are made of natural rubber latex, which is produced from the sap of the rubber tree. They are usually grown in South America or South East Asia. Major growing countries include Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. By producing locally, we at Mister Size also enable the local population to participate in the value chain of their raw materials and not just sell the raw material on cheaply to Europe.

What you should look out for

If you want to buy condoms online, you should pay attention to the following:

  • Local stores: With stores from the EU or even from your country, you should be fairly certain that the products meet the respective local quality requirements, as they are also subject to respective country market surveillance and are accordingly only allowed to sell approved medical products. Of course, as with other industries, there may be one or two stores that circumvent regulations or even fake stores.
  • Seller ratings: Check the ratings and feedback from other buyers regarding product quality and the trustworthiness of the seller.
  • Product descriptions: Be wary of vague or inadequate product descriptions. Reputable products usually contain detailed information about materials and product features.
  • Return policy: Check the seller's return policy. A customer-friendly return policy can be an indication of the seller's trustworthiness.
  • Check the brand website: If your chosen condom brand has its own website, you can usually find it very easily via a web search and find out more about the product and often also about recommended points of sale. You can find detailed information about our condoms and links to selected stores directly in our own Mister Size Shop section.
  • Be critical: You should be critical of extremely low prices, which are often at the expense of product quality. Condoms have also been counterfeited.

Buying cheap products via platforms such as Temu, AliExpress, Shein or other retailers from the Far East harbors potential risks in terms of quality and safety. However, these risks can be minimized by carefully checking product information and seller ratings. It is crucial that you, as a condom user, take responsibility to ensure that the products you buy are not only good value, but also safe and effective. Ultimately, the decision is yours, but informed choices can help protect your health and safety.

How to save money on condoms safely

Once you've found your condom size, we recommend buying a bulk pack right away to save on the price per condom. Condoms have a shelf life of several years after manufacture and there is usually no harm in buying condoms for a typical use of 1 or even 2 years. As everyone naturally has a very individual consumption of condoms, Mister Size offers extra different pack sizes, from the 3-pack to try out, to the 10-pack, to the bulk packs with 36 condoms or from 2024 also in a bag with 100 condoms.

To the Mister Size Shop

Condoms on vacation

If you are going on vacation to the Far East, Africa or South America, for example, it is best to find out beforehand whether you should take condoms with you, because the quality of condoms on offer locally can (but does not have to) be significantly worse than in Europe or North America, for example. A few years ago, there were real scandals involving local condoms in some countries, such as Vietnam*, or in Africa*, with very poor quality and thus a significantly increased risk of unwanted pregnancy and the transmission of diseases. You can quickly find relevant examples with a Google search, for example, or take a look at the links at the bottom of this page in our sources section.

Mister Size
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