An investigation has been launched by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) into three large fashion retailers (ASOS, Boohoo, and George at Asda), looking into claims made by each retailer in respect of "buying green". Earlier this year, the CMA reviewed the fashion sector and identified several concerns in respect of potentially misleading green claims. Among the concerns raised, the CMA suspected that several companies were creating the impression that their products were ‘sustainable’ or eco friendly, whilst providing little to no information about the basis for such claims.
Among other matters to be investigated, the CMA note that the following will be examined:
- whether statements and language used by the businesses are too broad and vague, and may create the impression that clothing collections are more environmentally sustainable than they are in reality;
- whether there is a lack of information provided to customers about products included in any of the companies’ eco ranges (for example missing information about what the fabric is made from); and
- if any statements made by the companies about fabric accreditation schemes and standards are potentially misleading.
The CMA announcement comes a matter of weeks after reports circulated that Dutch airline carrier KLM were being sued for "greenwashing" in advertisements, alleged to have mislead consumers over how sustainable the airlines flights were.
The investigation also comes almost a year after the CMA published guidance on making environmental claims on goods and services (September 2021). In this guidance, the CMA recognised that some environmental claims (which can be both explicit or implicit) could of course be genuine, though where a claim made by a business gives the impression that the goods/services are less harmful or more beneficial to the environment than they actually are, then this would be deemed to be a misleading environmental claim. The guidance, which explains what businesses should strive for both in respect of business to business and business to consumer interactions, highlights the underlying protection afforded to consumers in respect of unfair commercial practices, and the protection afforded to businesses generally in respect of unfair competition.