- CMA to find out if the companies’ green claims are misleading customers
- A wider investigation into the fashion sector will continue as the CMA considers whether to put more firms under the microscope.
- “If we find these companies using misleading eco claims, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action – in court if necessary,” said CMA’s interim chief executive.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will investigate claims by ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda about their eco-friendliness and sustainability in their fashion products, including clothing, footwear and accessories. The move is part of an ongoing investigation into greenwashing and follows concerns over the way the companies market their products to customers as eco-friendly.
In January this year, the CMA turned its attention to the fashion sector, which is worth an estimated £54 billion a year in consumer spending, and its first assessment identified concerns around potentially misleading green claims. These include many companies creating the impression that their products are ‘sustainable’ or better for the environment – for example by making sweeping claims about using recycled materials in new clothing – without any information to back those claims up or what products they actually relate to.
Today, the CMA launched investigations into ASOS, Boohoo and George to understand the concern. Among other things, these include:
- The descriptions and language used by the companies are very broad and vague, and the clothing collections – such as ‘Responsible Edit’ from ASOS, Buhu’s current ‘Future Ready’ and ‘George for Good’ – can be misleading. They are more environmentally sustainable
- The criteria some of these businesses use to determine which products are included in these collections may be lower than what their customers reasonably expect from their overall approach – for example, some products may contain less than 20% recycled content.
- Some items that do not meet the requirements are included in these collections
- There is a lack of information provided to customers about the products included in the company’s eco ranges, for example, the fabric is lost from the material it is made of.
- Any statements made by companies about fabric accreditation schemes and standards can be misleading, for example by not making it clear whether accreditation applies to specific products or company-wide practices.
CMA Interim Chief Executive Sarah Cardell said:
People who want to ‘buy green’ should be able to do so with confidence that they are not making a mistake. Environmentally friendly and sustainable products can play a role in combating climate change, but only if they are genuine.
We examine whether green claims from ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda overlap. If we find these companies using misleading eco claims, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action – in court if necessary.
Our work in this sector is just the beginning and all fashion companies take note: look at your own practices and make sure they are in line with the law.
The CMA has written to the 3 firms outlining its concerns and will use its data collection powers to carry out the investigation. How the review develops will depend on the CMA’s assessment of the evidence before it. Possible outcomes include asking the companies to change their practices, taking the companies to court, or closing the case without further action.
The move comes after the CMA published its Green Claims Regulations in September 2021. The code aims to help businesses understand how to communicate their green credentials while avoiding the risk of misleading consumers.
The CMA’s extensive investigation into misleading environmental claims is ongoing and other areas will be reviewed over time.
Notes to editors
- ASOS sells fashion items on the ASOS.com website. George at Asda sells fashion items at direct.asda.com/george and in store. Boohoo sells fashion items through several websites, including Boohoo.com, BoohooMan.com, DorothyPerkins.com, Oasisfashion.com and PrettyLittleThing.com.
- The CMA is in the early stages of its investigation. Accordingly, any business under investigation should not be presumed to have breached the Consumer Protection Act.
- From the CMA’s Green Claims Code and the main consumer protection legislation for the enforcement cases announced today is the Consumer Protection from Fair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs). The CPRs contain general prohibitions on unfair trade practices and misleading acts and omissions.
- Examples and case studies in the CMA’s The Green Claims Code: Environmental claims on goods and services.
- Read more about how the CMA supports low carbon growth in its 2022/23 Annual Plan.
- Media inquiries should be made to email@example.com or 020 3738 6460.
- All inquiries from the public should be directed to the CMA’s General Inquiries Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 3738 6000.