UK supermarkets sue Norwegian salmon firms over alleged price-fixing

A group of supermarkets from the UK are seeking compensation from Leroy Seafood, Grieg Seafood, and other Norwegian salmon producers following the EU's antitrust allegations.
Norwegian salmon products on sale at a supermarket.

Norwegian salmon products on sale at a supermarket.

Photo: Norwegian Seafood Council.

A group of UK supermarkets is taking legal action against the Norwegian salmon producers named by the European Commission in its price-fixing allegations.

In January, the six firms - Mowi, Cermaq, Grieg Seafood, Bremnes, Lerøy Seafood, and SalMar - were officially notified by the European Commission (EC) that they are suspected of violating EU antitrust laws and engaging in cartel-like activity.

The suspected breach involves the exchange of commercially sensitive information about prices and volumes of salmon between 2011 and 2019, which could have reduced market uncertainty, according to the EC.

The companies have all strenuously denied the claims.

However, it has now emerged that some of their UK customers are already seeking compensation.

Names of UK supermarkets involved in legal action as yet undisclosed, Leroy says customer claims "baseless"

The legal move by the as-yet unnamed group of British supermarkets came to light as part of the Q4 2023 reports by Leroy Seafood Group and Grieg Seafood.

In its Q4 report, Lerøy Seafood Group noted that: "In February 2024 a group of British supermarkets issued claims for damages in the UK against several Norwegian- owned aquaculture companies, including companies in the Lerøy Seafood Group."

"The Group strongly rejects the claimants’ allegations and considers such claims from customers to be baseless," Lerøy said.

"In Europe, these types of claims are first and foremost relevant if the Commission adopts a decision in its ongoing investigation and the decision is upheld," it continued.

“The Group understands that the claims have been issued at this stage in an attempt to interrupt potential limitation of claims under certain laws," the Lerøy report noted.

Grieg Seafood says UK claim is "entirely unsubstantiated"

Meanwhile, in its Q4 report, Grieg Seafood said: "A claim has been filed for damages in the UK against, among others, Grieg Seafood ASA and Grieg Seafood UK Limited arising from alleged unlawful cartel arrangements in relation to the supply of farmed Atlantic salmon."

"Grieg Seafood rejects that there is any basis for the alleged claim and considers the complaint to be entirely unsubstantiated," the company said.

"In general, Grieg Seafood denies any anti-competitive conduct whether it is in regard to the EC investigation, the claim filed in the UK or any possible future claims related to this matter subsequent to the issuance of the SO [Statement of Objections]. We will continue to collaborate with the European Commission and follow up all processes as it deems appropriate," Grieg Seafood said.

Out-of-court settlements over antitrust allegations in USA and Canada

Most of the salmon companies named in the EU antitrust case have already paid out compensation in out-of-court settlements over related allegations in both Canada and the United States.

Last year in Canada, Norwegian salmon companies Mowi, SalMar, Grieg Seafood, Cermaq and Lerøy Seafood agreed to settle out-of-court following the filing of 3 class action lawsuits claiming anti-competitive conduct.

As part of the settlement, the companies agreed to pay out CDN $5 million to claimants, in addition to donating CDN $250,000 to Food Banks Canada in lieu of payments to consumers.

In 2022, the same companies agreed to settle a USA class action lawsuit, paying USD $85 million out-of-court.

All of the companies deny any wrongdoing, and say the out-of-court settlements paid in the USA and Canada were in order to avoid substantial legal costs.

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