A French court on Tuesday ordered IKEA to pay a fine of 1 million euros ($ 1.2 million) for spying on its French staff, after the world’s largest furniture retailer was found guilty of collecting and stored data about its employees inappropriately.
The French branch of the Ingka group, which owns most of the IKEA stores in the world, has been accused of snooping its employees and some customers for several years.
The Flatbed Furniture group, which admitted improper practices, have been accused of violating employee privacy by reviewing their bank account records and sometimes using bogus employees to write reports on the job. staff.
Worker representatives said the information was used to target union leaders in some cases or used to IKEA’s advantage in disputes with customers, after the company searched for data on people’s finances. and even on the cars they drove. He was also found to have paid to access police records.
The prosecution had called for a fine of 2 million euros. Lawyers for the French union CGT and several people seeking compensation said the final amount was not high, but were pleased with the outcome.
“It’s the symbolism here that counts,” said Solène Debarre, lawyer representing the CGT.
The company said it was reviewing the court ruling to see if further action was needed, after taking steps to eliminate surveillance tactics.
“IKEA Retail France has strongly condemned the practices, apologized and put in place a major action plan to prevent this from happening again,” said the Ingka group.
IKEA employs around 10,000 people in France, its third market after Germany and the United States, and has experimented with new formats, including a store launched in 2019 in the heart of Paris.
It’s best known for its sprawling out-of-town self-service stores, but many shoppers have moved online, especially during pandemic shutdowns when demand for office furniture, jars, and kitchen products soared. increases.
The operating profit of the Ingka group in the fiscal year ended at the end of August 2020 fell, penalized by store closings during the coronavirus crisis, although it had forecast a rebound.
The former CEO of the company in France, Jean-Louis Baillot, was found guilty in this case and sentenced to two years in prison. The judges fined him 50,000 euros for keeping personal data.
The allegations covered the period 2009-2012, although prosecutors said the espionage tactics began in the early 2000s.
A total of 15 people were charged during the trial.
Two of the defendants were found not guilty of all charges against them, including a police officer and Stefan Vanoverbeke, who ran IKEA in France from 2010 to 2015 and still holds a managerial position in the group’s retail operations. .
Others have been cleared of certain charges, such as the systematic disclosure of confidential information, but convicted of others, including unlawful obtaining of personal data.
The penalties ranged from a fine of 5,000 euros for a former human resources manager to several suspended prison sentences.
IKEA fired several directors and overhauled its internal policy after the allegations came to light in 2012.
The Swedish firm has long denied having set up a generalized espionage system, and was acquitted on Tuesday of having systematically violated personal data.
IKEA operates through a franchise system. Ingka Group is the main franchisee of the owner of the Inter IKEA Group brand.
($ 1 = 0.8238 euros)
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