July 25, 2023

US-based class action lawsuits filed in response to competition-related investigations in UK and EU

Several US-based companies recently filed class action lawsuits in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey related to investigations launched in March 2023 by the Swiss Competition Commission (“COMCO”), the European Commission, and the UK Competition and Markets Authority into possible anticompetitive conduct and restrictive business practices in the fragrance industry, and, in particular, fragrances used in the manufacture of consumer goods such as household and personal care products.  COMCO and the European Commission reported that unannounced inspections were conducted on March 7, 2023 upon various companies suspected of coordinating their pricing policies, preventing competitors from supplying to certain customers, and limiting the production of certain fragrances in the industry.  The raids were reportedly a collaborative effort between the COMCO, the European Commission’s antitrust authority, Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice, the UK Competition and Markets Authority, and competition authorities of the EU Member States where the inspections occurred. COMCO disclosed that its investigation involved Swiss-based companies Firmenich International SA, Givaudan SA, International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (“IFFI”), and Symrise AG.

The class action complaints, which were filed in New Jersey’s federal court between April and July of 2023, accuse Firmenich, Givaudan, IFFI, Symrise, and certain affiliates and subsidiaries of these companies, of violating US antitrust laws.  The most recent case was filed on July 20, 2023 by Texas-based Crimson Candle Supplies LLC, a company that purchased fragrances and fragrance ingredients from one or more the defendants, that reportedly suffered a monetary loss due to alleged antitrust violations committed by companies that “dominate the world fragrance market.”  According to Crimson Candle, from at least January 1, 2012 to the present, the defendants conspired to increase the prices of fragrances and fragrance ingredients nationwide in violation of Sections 1 and 3 of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Other class action plaintiffs who filed similar complaints against the four defendants include several candle companies based Pennsylvania and Arkansas; a fragrance design company and a soap company, both headquartered in New York; and a Pennsylvania-based cosmetics company.  Most plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief, actual and compensatory damages, treble damages, interest, costs, and attorneys’ fees for injuries caused by the alleged antitrust violations.  A class action suit filed in April 2023 by plaintiff Alexia Dahmes d/b/a Alexia Viola Napa Valley, a California-based candle and home fragrance designer and distributor, accuses the defendants of violating Section 1 of the Sherman Act as well as state antitrust laws, unfair competition laws, consumer protection laws, and unjust enrichment laws of several states.

COMCO Press Release | European Commission Press Release | CMA News Release | Crimson Candles Complaint| Alexia Dahmes Complaint