- CMA to understand whether firms’ green claims are misleading customers
- The wider investigation into the fashion sector will continue as the CMA will also consider whether to put additional firms under the microscope
- The CMA’s interim chief executive says: “If we find that these companies are using misleading eco claims, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action – through the courts if necessary”
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will investigate eco-friendly and sustainability claims made by ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda about their fashion products, including clothing, footwear and accessories. The move comes as part of its ongoing investigation into possible green cleaning and follows concerns about how the firms’ products are being marketed to customers as environmentally friendly.
In January this year, the CMA turned its attention to the fashion sector, where consumers spend around £54 billion a year, and its initial review identified concerns about potentially misleading green claims. These included a number of companies giving the impression that their products were ‘sustainable’ or better for the environment – for example making sweeping claims about using recycled materials in new clothing – with little or no information about the basis for these claims or exactly which products they related to.
Today, the CMA has launched investigations into ASOS, Boohoo and George to get to the bottom of its concerns. Among others, these include if:
- statements and language used by businesses are too broad and vague and can give the impression that clothing collections – such as ‘responsible editing’ from ASOS, Boohoo’s current ‘Ready for the Future’ range and ‘George for Good ‘ – are more environmentally sustainable than they actually are
- the criteria used by some of these businesses to decide which products to include in these collections may be lower than what customers might reasonably expect from their descriptions and general presentation – for example, some products may contain up to 20% recycled fabric
- some items are included in these collections when they do not meet the criteria
- there is a lack of information provided to customers about the products included in the eco range of any company, such as information about the fabric is missing
- any statements made by companies about garment accreditation schemes and standards are potentially misleading, such as a lack of clarity as to whether accreditation applies to specific products or to wider firm practices
Sarah Cardell, interim chief executive of the CMA, said:
People who want to ‘buy green’ should be able to do so with confidence that they are not being scammed. Ecological and sustainable products can play a role in tackling climate change, but only if they are genuine.
We’ll be taking a hard look at the green claims from ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda to see if they stack up. If we find that these companies are using misleading environmental claims, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action – through the courts if necessary.
This is just the beginning of our work in this sector and all fashion companies should take note: look at your practices and make sure they comply with the law.
The CMA has written to the 3 firms outlining its concerns and will use its intelligence gathering powers to obtain evidence to progress the investigation. How the review proceeds will depend on the CMA’s assessment of the evidence before it. Possible outcomes include getting the companies to change the way they operate, sending the firms to court or closing the case without further action.
The move comes after the CMA published its code of green requirements in September 2021. The code aims to help businesses understand how to communicate their green credentials, avoiding the risk of misleading buyers.
The CMA’s wider investigation into fraudulent environmental claims is ongoing and other sectors will be examined in due course.
Notes to editors
- ASOS sells fashion items through the website ASOS.com. George at Asda sells fashion items online at direct.asda.com/george and in store. Boohoo sells fashion items through a number of websites, including Boohoo.com, BoohooMan.com, DorothyPerkins.com, Oasisfashion.com and PrettyLittleThing.com.
- The CMA is in the initial stages of its investigation. Therefore, it should not be assumed that any business under investigation has breached consumer protection law.
- The main piece of consumer protection legislation relating to the CMA’s Green Claims Code and the enforcement cases announced today is the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs). The CPRs contain a general prohibition against unfair trade practices and specific prohibitions against deceptive acts and omissions.
- Examples and case studies can be found in the CMA’s Green Claims Code: Environmental claims on goods and services.
- Read more about how the CMA is supporting low carbon growth in its 2022/23 annual plan.
- Media inquiries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 3738 6460.
- All inquiries from the general public should be directed to the CMA’s General Inquiries team at email@example.com or 020 3738 6000.