A BBC Panorama investigation has uncovered that Boohoo, the fast-fashion retail giant, allegedly mislabelled thousands of garments produced in South Asia as 'Made in the UK.' The garments, including plain T-shirts and hoodies, had their original labels removed at Boohoo's flagship factory, Thurmaston Lane in Leicester, last year.

The mislabelling, which occurred between January and October 2023, affected up to one in 250 of Boohoo's global supply of garments, according to the BBC estimates. This has raised concerns about potential consumer deception, as shoppers may have unknowingly purchased items falsely advertised as UK-made.

Boohoo contends that the incorrect labels resulted from a misinterpretation of labelling rules and insists it was an isolated incident attributed to human error. A company spokesperson stated, "We have taken steps to ensure this does not happen again." 

Image courtesy of the BBC

However, industry experts and critics argue otherwise. Sylvia Rook, lead officer for fair trading at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, told BBC that replacing country-of-origin labels with 'Made in the UK' ones in this manner was "incorrect" and "could potentially mislead consumers." Philip Dunne MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, expressed concern to the BBC over the potentially serious nature of the labelling findings, stating, "Consumers should not be misled as to the source of garments that they're buying."

The revelation comes amid reports that Boohoo is contemplating the closure of its Leicester factory, Thurmaston Lane, later this year. The factory, which opened in January 2022, was initially promoted by Boohoo as a UK manufacturing centre of excellence, showcasing responsible and ethical production.

Boohoo, which pledged to overhaul its practices in 2020 following allegations of poor working conditions and underpayment at its Leicester-based supplier factories, is currently in consultation with workers regarding the future of the Thurmaston Lane site. The company insists the decision is part of its ongoing efforts to become a more efficient and strengthened business. 

This recent controversy follows previous revelations in 2023, where a BBC Panorama investigation exposed Boohoo pressuring suppliers to reduce prices, as well as subcontracting orders to factories in Morocco. Boohoo had pledged to address ethical concerns within its supply chain and introduced an Agenda for Change to ensure fair payment to suppliers. 

As Boohoo faces renewed criticism, questions arise about the sustainability of its fast-fashion model and its ability to deliver on promises of responsible and ethical manufacturing within the UK.

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