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Asda, ASOS and Boohoo probed over ‘green’ fashion claims

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

The retailers are being investigated by the competition watchdog over potentially misleading green claims when it comes to their fashion lines.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will be investigating the eco-friendly and sustainability claims made by ASOS, Boohoo and Asda’s George range on their clothing, footwear and accessories.

It said an estimated £54bn is spent annually on fashion and its initial review of the sector raised concerns about potentially misleading green claims, such as giving the impression they’re sustainable or better for the environment with little to no information about the basis of such claims.

The CMA is now delving further into the claims made by Asda, ASOS and Boohoo, and its investigation will look at the statements and language used by the businesses to see if they’re too broad and vague. It wants to see if the collections, including ‘Responsible edit’ from ASOS, Boohoo’s current ‘Ready for the Future’ range, and ‘George for Good’ – are more environmentally sustainable than they actually are.

It will look at the criteria used by some of these businesses to decide which products to include in these collections may be lower than customers might reasonably expect from their descriptions and overall presentation – for example, some products may contain as little as 20% recycled fabric.

The watchdog will investigate whether some items have been included in these collections when they do not meet the criteria.

Further, it was also look at whether there is a lack of information provided to customers about products included in any of the companies’ eco ranges, such as missing information about what the fabric is made from.

And it will check statements made by the companies about fabric accreditation schemes and standards are potentially misleading, such as a lack of clarity as to whether the accreditation applies to particular products or to the firm’s wider practices.

‘Buzz word’

Danni Hewson, AJ Bell financial analyst, said: “Sustainability has become a buzz word amongst environmentally conscious shoppers. They rely on companies to steer them in the right direction, providing eco-friendly options that do exactly what they say on the tin. But exactly how green is the tin? That’s the question the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is digging into, assessing if Boohoo, ASOS and George at Asda’s sustainable lines live up to message they are putting out.

“It’s about drilling down into the language. There’s a big difference between 100% recycled materials and those with just a fraction in the mix. People want to feel good about their purchases and many will pay slightly over the odds for the privilege.”

Consumer champion, Helen Dewdney, AKA The Complaining Cow who has teamed up with to offer readers tips, information and action points when it comes to your consumer rights, said: “Consumers who want to shop in an eco-friendly and sustainable way believe they are doing the right thing and making responsible purchases. If companies are mis-leading consumers it will damage the whole sector through undermining consumer confidence as well as damaging the environment.”

Sarah Cardell, interim chief executive of the CMA, said: “People who want to ‘buy green’ should be able to do so confident that they aren’t being misled. Eco-friendly and sustainable products can play a role in tackling climate change, but only if they are genuine.

“We’ll be scrutinising green claims from ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda to see if they stack up. Should we find these companies are using misleading eco claims, we won’t hesitate to take enforcement action – through the courts if necessary.

“This is just the start of our work in this sector and all fashion companies should take note: look at your own practices and make sure they are in line with the law.”

What do the retailers say?

Asda: “We know how important it is that our customers can trust the claims we make about our products, which is why we ensure the statements we make can be supported by industry accreditations. We are ready and willing to answer any questions the CMA have about our George for Good range and welcome further work by the CMA to ensure the sustainability claims made by the fashion industry as a whole are robust and clear.”

ASOS: “ASOS notes the announcement earlier today by the CMA, stating that it has opened an investigation into certain fashion retailers, including ASOS, following the publication of the Green Claims Code. ASOS will co-operate with the investigation and is committed to playing its part in making fashion more sustainable, including providing clear and accurate information about its products. ASOS does not propose to comment on the investigation further at this stage.”

Boohoo: “Boohoo notes the announcement made this morning by the Competition and Markets Authority regarding an investigation into a number of fashion retailers, including boohoo, following publication of the Green Claims Code. The Group will continue to work collaboratively with the CMA and is committed to providing its customers with accurate information on the products they buy. boohoo does not intend to comment further on the investigation at this stage.”