Norwegian salmon farmers slapped with another price-fixing lawsuit, this time from UK consumers

Close-up shot of fresh fish counter inside Tesco supermarket
Salmon for sale at a Tesco supermarket in 2018 | Photo courtesy of Matylda Laurence/Shutterstock
6 Min

Several of the biggest Norwegian salmon-farming firms, which have been embroiled in price-fixing allegations since 2019, are facing a fresh lawsuit filed on behalf of consumers in the United Kingdom.

The collective action filed with the U.K. Competition Appeal Tribunal on 20 June demands GBP 382 million (USD 483.2 million, EUR 451.8 million) from Mowi, SalMar, Lerøy, Scottish Sea Farms, and Grieg for alleged collusion and unlawful price-fixing.

The filing follows the European Commission’s 25 January announcement it is advancing a years-long price-fixing investigation into Mowi, Cermaq, Grieg, Bremnes, Lerøy, and SalMar. In its statement, the E.U. expressed its preliminary view they breached E.U. antitrust rules by colluding to distort competition in the market for spot sales of Norwegian farmed Atlantic salmon in the E.U. The E.C. has not issued further comment regarding its investigation since the announcement.

The new suit was filed by Waterside Class Limited, a company created specifically to bring a claim on behalf of around 44 million U.K. consumers who allegedly paid inflated prices – up to 20 percent higher – for Norwegian farmed salmon they bought at retail between 2011 and 2019. Waterside said in a press release it will argue that retailers passed on the majority of higher salmon prices to their customers and, “therefore, that much of the damage caused by alleged price-fixing has ultimately been suffered by consumers rather than retailers.”

“This action claims that some of the Atlantic salmon farming industry’s biggest companies have conspired to raid the wallets of hard-working shoppers. This action aims to seek fair redress for the millions of British consumers who we say spent years overpaying for one of the U.K.’s favorite and highly nutritious foods,” Waterside Director Anne Heal, a former director of regulatory affairs at U.K.-based multinational telecommunications BT and former managing director of strategy at Openreach. “By bringing this collective action, I want to give a voice to affected consumers across the U.K. and see them properly compensated for their losses. I also want to bring attention to market practices which harm consumers, and hold the defendant companies to account for their alleged wrongdoing.”

Waterside said the proceeding has been brought on an opt-out basis, meaning that all U.K. class members are included by default, unless they elect to be removed from the suit. If the legal action is successful, “most class members will not have to produce any documents to be compensated, and compensation will be divided equally among them,” Waterside said.

Class members do not have to pay fees to join the suit and will not be at risk of paying any fees or the defendants’ costs if the proceedings are ultimately unsuccessful, according to Waterside.

The proceeding is being funded by Erso Capital, and the action is insured, Waterside said. The suit specifically alleges violations of Section 2 of the 1998 U.K. Competition Act and Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 53 of the European Economic Area Agreement.

“The European provisions are relevant because they were in force in the U.K. at the time of the alleged collusion, including as part of the agreed post-Brexit transitional arrangements between the E.U. and the U.K.,” Waterside said.

The suit covers U.K. consumers who purchased any product containing 50 percent or more farmed Atlantic salmon sourced from Norway, including fresh and frozen whole salmon, fillets, sliced (including smoked) salmon, steaks and other cuts or portions of salmon, and tinned salmon. It excludes processed items such as fishcakes, fish pies, sandwiches, or premade meals, unless they contained 50 percent or more farmed Atlantic salmon. The products must have been purchased at grocery retailers in the U.K., such as supermarkets, convenience stores, fishmongers, or online outlets. Products purchased directly from restaurants, cafés, pubs, or other eateries are not covered by the suit.

The Waterside action follows ...

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