Boohoo ‘not aware’ of any US labour investigation

Manchester-based online fashion giant Boohoo Group plc said on Tuesday it is not “aware of any investigation” by US Customs and Border Protection following reports claiming the firm could face a US import ban over labour abuse allegations.

A Sky News report claimed US Customs and Border Protection has seen sufficient evidence to launch an investigation after petitions from lawyer Duncan Jepson, who runs Liberty Shared, a campaign group against modern-day slavery.

It quotes Jepson as saying Boohoo is not doing enough to stop forced labour in the factories in Leicester which supply many of its clothes.

Bloomberg News reported that Liberty Shared has petitioned US Customs and Border Protection to ban clothing imports from Boohoo and most factories in Leicester.

Bloomberg reported that Liberty Shared said it submitted two petitions at the beginning of February asking for an investigation as the concentration of suppliers in Leicester means “products sold by Boohoo are potentially produced at least in part by forced labor.”

Boohoo also owns the brands NastyGal and PrettyLittleThing.

Last September, Boohoo accepted the recommendations of an independent review which found major failings in its supply chain in England after newspaper allegations about working conditions and low pay, and outlined steps to tackle the problems.

Boohoo shares fell about 4%.

In a stock exchange statement, Boohoo said: “Boohoo notes recent media commentary.

“The group has not received any correspondence from, nor is it aware of any investigation by, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

“The group is confident in the actions it is taking to ensure that all of its products meet the CBP criteria on preventing the product of forced labour entering the US (or any of its markets).

“Boohoo continues to fulfil orders to customers in the US across all of its brands.

“The group will work with any competent authority to provide assurance that products from its supply chain meet the required standard.

“Over the past 8 months the group has been working closely with UK enforcement bodies.

“If the group were to discover any suggestion of modern day slavery it would immediately disclose this to the relevant authorities.

“In addition, Alison Levitt QC’s independent review into Boohoo’s Leicester supply chain, published in September 2020, stated that ‘there is no evidence that the company itself or its officers have committed any criminal offences’.”