She told The Telegraph: “It’s the way a brand drives a sense of urgency. Often they are dealing with young consumers who don’t realise that it’s a prompt for a spend. “Consumers have enormous power to step away from that false promotion and engage with brands that are at the price point that suits you and are completely ethical.”Rather than having a false experience with an algorithm with a clock, take your £10 you were going to spend on value fashion to a charity shop and spend that and help people in severe poverty to have clean water.”Mary Creagh, who is investigating fast fashion as chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said: “These sites are using sophisticated psychological methods online to encourage consumers to buy more than they need, spend more time on the sites and create a false feeling of urgency and fear of missing out.“I think Boohoo has questions to answer about the sustainability of their business model which is predicated on getting young women to buy more than they need.”Zac Goldsmith MP, who is also on the committee, added: “Fast fashion is bad for consumers and bad for the environment. With half a million tonnes of microfibres entering the ocean every year, and more than half of clothing items ending in landfill or incineration within a year, retailers have a moral responsibility to up their game. The use of fake countdowns is not only dishonest, it fuels significant environmental damage.” Websites have been banned from holding ‘fake countdown sales’ by the Advertising Standards Authority amid fears the ‘psychological tool’ is fueling fast fashion.Budget fashion website Boohoo was found by the ASA to have been using misleading “countdown” sales, where the consumer was promised a large discount if they shopped before a large digital countdown clock at the top of the page ran out. The page urged the customer to “hurry” before the sale “runs out.”However, in many cases, the clock was found to reset after it ran out, and the sale was not time-limited as the website claimed.A spokesperson from the ASA said: “Boohoo is breaking rules around sales promotions that we have investigated and ruled against previously which is why this has been passed straight to our Compliance team. Our team will work with the advertiser to ensure they bring their ad into line. “In this specific instance, the use of a countdown clock is problematic if it misleadingly implies the offer is time-limited when that is not the case.”A Boohoo spokesperson said that a small number of sales were extended due to “customer demand”, adding: “It is never our intention to mislead customers.“We are looking into our processes to ensure that further diligence is exercised in relation to future promotions of this nature”. The use of countdown clocks on shopping websites is controversial even when the sale ends as advertised.Dr Patsy Perry, a senior lecturer in fashion marketing at the University of Manchester, said “countdown clocks” are a commonly used psychological tool on budget websites.She told The Telegraph: “Psychological research has shown that scarcity (or perceived scarcity) makes an item more attractive.“Scarcity marketing is a powerful conversion trigger to encourage consumers to go through with their purchase, not just leave it in their shopping basket, for fear of missing out.“Scarcity marketing is used by other online companies e.g. Amazon, Booking.com and there is nothing wrong with the practice in itself, as it provides useful info to consumers for their purchase decision-making…it’s useful to know how many items are in stock. “But, as it is a psychological trigger that plays on our fear of missing out then it causes pressure and anxiety, which would lead to people buying without really thinking through do they really need/want that item?”Campaigners and MPs have criticised the fashion industry for using these “countdown clocks,” arguing that they pressure consumers into buying clothes they don’t need, which fuels fast fashion.Caryn Franklin MBE, host of Clothes Show Live, is working with Oxfam in a campaign against fast fashion. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.