Fast-fashion retailers including Asos, Boohoo and Missguided have been called before Parliament over concerns the impact cheap clothing has on workers and the environment.
MPs on the Environment Audit Committee have written to the trio, along with Amazon and Pretty Little Thing, to call on them to disclose what policies they have in place to prevent “excessive” quantities of clothes being sent to landfill and how they ensure factory workers are paid a fair wage.
Mary Creagh, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said: “Our recent evidence hearing raised alarm bells about the fast-growing online-only retail sector.
“Low-quality £5 dresses aimed at young people are said to be made by workers on illegally low wages and are discarded almost instantly, causing mountains of non-recycled waste to pile up.”
Creagh said she hoped the inquiry would encourage the nation’s major online fashion retailers to “face up to the social and environmental consequences of their business models”.
“We want to know that they are fully compliant with employment law, that garments have a decent life-span and that profit is not put before environmental damage,” she added.
The committee has questioned fashion designers, entrepreneurs and campaigners as part of its inquiry.
Creagh said that last week it heard evidence that the buying practices of some online fashion retailers may be putting British clothing manufacturers in a position where they can only afford to pay garment workers illegally low wages.