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Canadian class action seeks $500 million over alleged salmon market price-fixing

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    TORONTO — Several Norwegian salmon producers are facing a $500-million class action lawsuit over allegations of price-fixing collusion on product that ended up in Canada.

    The lawsuit, filed by Sotos LLP in Toronto Federal Court on Jan. 3, alleges that “the defendants and their unnamed co-conspirators control the Canadian salmon market through their market share,” and conspired to fix the global and North American prices of salmon, according to the statement of claim.

    The legal challenge comes after a probe by E.U. and U.S. authorities last year cited in the statement of claim over “antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices” and previous allegations of “collusion between the defendants in the salmon industry.”

    “To be honest it is considered a very obscure industry… nothing is negotiated in public, compared to beef or pork for example,” said food distribution and policy professor at Dalhousie University Sylvain Charlebois on CTV’s Your Morning Thursday.

    “In seafood and fish, everything is private. So to actually look at indicators and anticipate any collusion or any criminal behaviour is very difficult to do,” he said.

    The Lead plaintiff in the case is anti-poverty activist Irene Breckon of Elliot Lake, Ont., and the defendants include several Norwegian companies and their subsidiaries operating out of North America including Grieg Seafood, Leroy Seafood Group and Mowi.

    Breckon is representing anyone who “purchased farmed Atlantic salmon and products” in Canada dating back to July 2015.

    The suit alleges that price-fixing contributed to a large jump in price from 2015 to 2016, which was recorded by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN as a 40 per cent increase.

    Charlebois said that talking about this issue and making the public aware is a “big step” in preventing further price issues in the seafood industry from occurring.

    “We need to protect the public,” he said.

    None of the allegations have been tested in court and the class action has not been certified.

    Global Communications Manager for Griegs Seafood Kristina Furnes said in an emailed statement to CTVNews.ca that the company was made aware of the lawsuit in Canada, and stated that it is “related to the separate investigations of the EU Commission and the US Department of Justice.”

    “We are not aware of any anti-competitive behavior, not in Norway, the EU, the USA or Canada,” the statement continues. “We are fully collaborating with European and American authorities in this matter. We will follow up the lawsuit accordingly.”

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