Auchan faces probe over Bangladesh garment factory collapse

Published: May 29, 2014
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File photo of a garment factory in Bangladesh. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

File photo of a garment factory in Bangladesh. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

AFP: French prosecutors said Wednesday they have opened a preliminary probe into supermarket giant Auchan over complaints it misled consumers over social conditions at its clothes manufacturers in the wake of last year’s deadly Bangladesh factory disaster.

The prosecutor’s office in the northern city of Lille confirmed that following a complaint by three lobby groups, it had opened a preliminary probe over misleading advertising in the context of the disaster which killed over 1,000 people.

Auchan says it had never placed any orders at the Rana Plaza garment factory which collapsed on April 24 last year after a catastrophic structural failure.

But three lobby groups last month accused Auchan in a complaint of misleading customers about working conditions overseas and claim that an investigation found labels from the chain’s “In Extenso” range in the rubble.

Sherpa, a non profit organisation for the “victims of economic crimes.” Peuples Solidaires (People’s Solidarity), and the Ethique sur l’etiquette (Ethics on Labels) collective, claim a number of witnesses, including some in Bangladesh, are available to provide evidence.

They accused Auchan of “misleading French consumers on working conditions in the places where its products are manufactured”.

Auchan said Wednesday it had not been informed of the probe, and if confirmed, would cooperate with prosecutors in good faith.

The collapse of the eight-storey Rana Plaza killed 1,138 workers and left more than 2,000 injured.

The tragedy, one of the world’s worst garment factory disasters, highlighted poor safety and appalling working conditions at the factory.

Auchan operates in more than a dozen countries and had sales of over 48 billion euros ($65 billion) last year.

The company has said it had made “a number of changes” in response to the disaster, including signing an agreement with 158 international companies which aims to improve the safety of textile factory workers in Bangladesh.

It has also launched an action plan against undeclared sub-contracting.

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