Revealed: the UK supermarkets suing Norway's biggest salmon firms for £675m

The claimants, including well-known UK retailers Asda, Marks & Spencer, Aldi and Morrisons, account for 44% of the UK grocery market, and spent £1.7 billion on farmed Atlantic salmon during 2011-2019.
Asda, Marks & Spencer, Aldi, and Morrisons supermarkets are among the group of claimants.

Asda, Marks & Spencer, Aldi, and Morrisons supermarkets are among the group of claimants.

Images: Adobe Stock.

WeAreAquaculture reported yesterday that some of the UK's top supermarkets are taking joint action against Norway's top salmon producers, in the wake of the European Commission investigation into anti-competitive conduct in spot sales of Atlantic salmon into the European market during the period 2011-2019.

The names of the claimants and the level of compensation sought have now been revealed, in a public document lodged with the UK's Competition Appeal Tribunal.

Seven of the largest supermarkets in the UK, claiming  £675 million in damages

In total, 10 UK-based retail entities form the group of claimants: Asda Stores Ltd, Iceland Foods Ltd, Marks and Spencer P.L.C, Marks and Spencer Group PLC, Ocado Retail Ltd, Wm Morrison Supermarkets Ltd, International Seafoods Ltd, Aldi Stores Ltd, Co-operative Group Food Ltd, and Co-operative Group Ltd.

Together, the group comprises seven of the largest supermarkets in the UK.

The claim notes that the group represents "over 44% of the UK grocery market" and accounted for "total estimated combined purchases of farmed Atlantic salmon of around £1.7 billion" during the period when the alleged anti-competitive activities took place.

The group is seeking total damages of £675 million (USD 858.4 million / EUR 790 million).

Hefty damages claimed from Norway's biggest salmon firms and their UK subsidiaries

The legal document is described as a "Claim for damages arising from alleged unlawful cartel arrangements entered into and/or implemented by the Defendants in relation to the supply of farmed Atlantic salmon."

The defendants in the claim are identified as Bremnes Seashore AS, Cermaq Group AS, Grieg Seafood ASA, Grieg Seafood UK Ltd, Lerøy Seafood Group ASA, Lerøy Seafood UK Ltd, SalMar ASA, Mowi ASA, Mowi Consumer Products UK Ltd, Mowi Scotland Ltd, Scottish Sea Farms Ltd, SSF Hjaltland UK Ltd, and SSF Shetland Ltd.

Claim also covers frozen and processed products, unlike European Commission case

In the claim, the group argues that "the effects of the Cartel extended downstream through the supply chain, affecting secondary processed products made from farmed Atlantic Salmon, such as smoked or frozen salmon and ready to eat salmon products."

However, the European Commission's investigation only covers sales of fresh, whole, and gutted Atlantic salmon farmed in Norway, and not processed or frozen products.

The claim also contends that "The Cartel caused the Claimants and/or members of the Claimant Groups loss and damage as they had to pay higher prices than they would otherwise have paid".

The group's claim includes damages regarding additional costs of financing inflated purchase prices, as well as interest on the losses suffered.

Salmon giants deny wrongdoing, say claim "baseless", "unsubstantiated"

In Leroy Seafood Group's recent fourth-quarter report for 2023, the group made reference to the supermarkets' legal action, stating: "The Group strongly rejects the claimants’ allegations and considers such claims from customers to be baseless."

Similarly, Grieg Seafood said in its Q4 2023 report: "Grieg Seafood rejects that there is any basis for the alleged claim and considers the complaint to be entirely unsubstantiated."

All of the salmon firms in question have strenuously denied any wrongdoing in response to the EU antitrust allegations, and said they will exercise their right to respond to the European Commission's findings in due course.

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