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Regulators have launched a probe into whether fashion giants Asos, Boohoo and George at Asda are misleading their customers over their green credentials.
The inquiry will examine whether the brands are pulling the wool over customers’ eyes by claiming products are more sustainable or eco-friendly than they actually are.
Officials at the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said they will look into Asos’s “Responsible edit” range, Boohoo’s “Ready for the Future”, and “George for Good”.
The CMA said it had received reports that some of the clothes in the ranges do not meet green criteria.
It could result in the retailers being taken to court if it emerges their claims do not “stack up”, the authority said.
The CMA also issued a stark warning to all fashion companies to make sure they are complying with the law.
Sarah Cardell, the CMA’s interim chief executive, 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.”
The CMA started looking into the fashion sector in January.
Initial concerns were raised that several companies are making broad and unsubstantiated claims about the use of recycled material in new clothing.
It found some products may contain as little as 20% recycled fabric despite being marketed as more sustainable.
Some descriptions might be missing important information about what the fabric is made from, and there is a lack of clarity about whether fabric standards apply to specific products or the firm’s wider practices, the CMA said.
That’s why we’ve launched an investigation to see if their #greenclaims are misleading customers.
— Competition & Markets Authority (@CMAgovUK) July 29, 2022
Kate Gee, counsel at law firm Signature Litigation, said: “Today’s announcement that the CMA is investigating these three high-profile fashion brands is a warning to all fashion companies to take an honest look at their own business practices, and whether they are compliant with the Green Claims Code.
“Time will tell whether these – or other – companies have indeed overstated their sustainability credentials, but the CMA appears ready and willing to take a robust approach to enforcement, involving the courts where necessary.
“Given the global scale and impact of the fashion industry, I anticipate that this will be just the start of a series of investigations in this sector.”
The CMA has written to Boohoo, Asos and Asda outlining its concerns and will begin obtaining evidence to progress its investigation.
It could force the retailers to change their practices or take them to court.
Misleading environmental claims are being investigated on a wider scale and the CMA could turn its attention to other sectors in the future to stamp down on greenwashing.
An Asda spokesperson said: “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.”