The UK’s competition watchdog is investigating Asos, Boohoo and Asda over claims about the sustainability of their fashion products.
If the firms are found to have made misleading claims, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it would not hesitate to take action.
Concerns include the use of vague language which may suggest collections are greener than they actually are.
Asos said it was committed to providing clear and accurate information.
The online fast fashion firm added that it was “committed to playing its part in making fashion more sustainable” and was cooperating with the investigation.
The other two companies have been contacted for comment.
The CMA’s move is part of an ongoing investigation into potential “greenwashing”, when firms brand something as sustainable when this is not the case, and follows concerns about the way the companies’ products are being marketed as eco-friendly.
An initial review in January identified concerns about potentially misleading claims, including companies making broad statements about the use of recycled materials in new clothing with little or no information about the basis for those claims.
Other concerns which will be investigated include whether:
- statements used by businesses are too broad and vague, and may create the impression that collections – such as the “Responsible edit” from Asos, Boohoo’s “Ready for the Future” range and “George for Good” at Asda – are more environmentally sustainable than they actually are
- the criteria used to decide which products to include in these collections may be lower than customers might reasonably expect from their descriptions – for example, some products may contain as little as 20% recycled fabric
- some items have been included in these collections when they do not meet the criteria
- there is a lack of information provided to customers about the products included, such as what the fabric is made from
- any statements made by the companies about fabric accreditation schemes and standards are potentially misleading, such as a lack of clarity over whether the accreditation applies to particular products or to the firm’s wider practices
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.”
“Should we find these companies are using misleading eco claims, we won’t hesitate to take enforcement action – through the courts if necessary,” she added.
“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.”
Possible actions which could be taken by the CMA include securing undertakings from companies to change the way they operate or taking firms to court.
The move comes after the CMA published its Green Claims Code in September 2021, which aims to help businesses understand how to communicate their green credentials, while avoiding the risk of misleading shoppers.