Atlantic salmon industry heavyweights are facing a legal claim in the UK suggesting they engaged in cartel activities and artificially inflated prices over several years.

The class action, brought by the UK legal firm Simmons and Simmons, is claiming £382m ($484m) on behalf of British consumers from some of Norway’s largest salmon producers – Mowi, SalMar, Lerøy, Grieg and Scottish Sea Farms, which is jointly owned by Lerøy and SalMar.

The action, brought under the name of Waterside, a group set up to lead the claim, and filed at the specialist UK Competition Appeal Tribunal, says the defendants unlawfully colluded to increase global prices for farmed Atlantic salmon. They allege the actions led consumers to pay up to 20% more than they otherwise would have done.

The salmon companies are accused of participating in co-ordinated transactions and unlawfully exchanging information to drive farmed Atlantic salmon prices up.

Claimants are seeking compensation for consumers who bought certain farmed Atlantic salmon products from UK grocery retailers between October 2015 and May 2019.

According to the claim, this overcharging of consumers continued until 31 May 2019, shortly after the European Commission raided the offices of various Atlantic salmon farmers as part of a major investigation into price-fixing in February 2019. In January 2024, the Commission expressed its preliminary view that various Norwegian companies, including Mowi, SalMar, Lerøy and Grieg, colluded to fix short-term farmed Atlantic salmon prices in Europe between 2011 and 2019.

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On the UK claim, Anne Heal, on behalf of Waterside, said: “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 UK’s favourite and highly nutritious foods.

“By bringing this collective action, I want to give a voice to affected consumers across the UK 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.”

Patrick Boylan, head of Simmons and Simmons’ UK dispute resolution group, added: “We are looking forward to working with Waterside and Anne Heal to bring this claim against Mowi, SalMar, Lerøy, Scottish Sea Farms and Grieg in respect of their alleged unlawful conduct.”

Just Food has contacted all of the salmon businesses named to get their response to the legal action brought against them.

Grieg Seafood CEO Andreas Kvame said: “Grieg Seafood has not yet received the lawsuit. Once received, we will examine the alleged infringement. However, as we have communicated in the past, Grieg Seafood denies any anti-trust infringements or anti-competitive behaviour and will exercise all its rights of defence.”

Mowi said: “Mowi has not been involved in any anti-competitive conduct and believe that the allegations are unfounded. We have no further comment at this point.”

Some of the defendants in this case have already contributed to multi-million-dollar payments to settle class-action lawsuits bought on behalf of salmon consumers and other buyers in the US without accepting liability.

The US price-fixing probe, dating back to 2019, was eventually dropped in 2023.

In March, it was revealed seven UK supermarket groups had filed for compensation over a supposed cartel in the Atlantic farmed salmon sector which they claim included Lerøy, Grieg, SalMar and Mowi.