Anne Heal is the sole director of Waterside Class Limited, which is suing salmon producers.

Salmon producers sued for up to £382m in UK

Consumer advocate seeking 'fair redress' for millions of British consumers said to have overpaid

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Legal action is being taken in the United Kingdom against salmon farmers accused of costing consumers hundreds of millions of pounds by allegedly fixing prices, Business Wire reports.

The move follows class action lawsuits involving similar allegations in the US and Canada that were settled out of court, without admission of any wrongdoing.

The collective action seeks as much as £382 million for UK consumers who overpaid because of alleged breaches of competition law by the proposed defendants: Mowi and its subsidiary Mowi Holdings, SalMar, Lerøy, Scottish Sea Farms (owned by SalMar and Lerøy) and Grieg.

The defendants are accused of manipulating benchmark prices for Norwegian Atlantic salmon between October 2015 and May 2019 by using related entities to purchase salmon at inflated prices, and unlawfully exchanging commercially sensitive information about the price and volumes of sales of farmed Atlantic salmon.

Consumer advocate

The action in the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal has been filed on behalf of UK consumers by Waterside Class Limited, a company set up to bring the claim. Its sole director and representative is Anne Heal, a former director of regulatory affairs at BT (British Telecom), reported to be a passionate advocate for consumers.

Waterside’s legal action claims that the alleged cartel’s behaviour drove farmed Atlantic salmon prices up to 20% higher than they otherwise would have been over the course of the alleged conspiracy. The defendants charged higher prices to supermarkets and other retailers in the first instance; then the retailers passed on most of the price increases to consumers. The legal claim seeks fair compensation on behalf of up to 44 million UK consumers.

Heal 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.”

Rights of defence

Grieg Seafood chief executive 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."

A spokesperson for 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."