IKEA fined US$1.2m for French staff spying

A French court yesterday ordered IKEA to pay a 1-million euro (US$1.2 million) fine for spying on its French staff.

A French court yesterday ordered IKEA to pay a 1-million euro (US$1.2 million) fine for spying on its French staff, after the world's biggest furniture retailer was found guilty of improperly gathering and storing data on its employees.

The French branch of Ingka Group, which owns most IKEA stores worldwide, was accused of snooping on its workers and some clients over several years.

The flatpack furniture group, which has recognized there were some improper practices, was accused of breaching staff privacy by reviewing records of their bank accounts and sometimes using fake employees to write up reports on staff.

Worker representatives said the data was used to target union leaders in some cases or used to IKEA's advantage in disputes with customers, after the firm trawled data on people's finances and even what cars they drove. It was also found to have paid for access to police files.

Surveillance tactics

Prosecutors had been pushing for a 2-million euro fine. Lawyers for France's CGT union and several individuals seeking compensation said the final amount was not hefty, but welcomed the outcome. "It's the symbolism here that matters," said Solene Debarre, a lawyer representing the CGT.

The company said it was reviewing the court decision to see if further measures were needed, after it took steps to stamp out the surveillance tactics. "IKEA Retail France has strongly condemned the practices, apologized and implemented a major action plan to prevent this from happening again," Ingka Group said.

IKEA employs around 10,000 people in France, its third biggest market after Germany and the United States, and has experimented with new formats there, including a store launched in 2019 in the heart of Paris.

The firm's former chief executive in France, Jean-Louis Baillot, was found guilty in the case and handed a two-year suspended prison sentence. Judges fined him 50,000 euros for storing personal data.

The allegations centered on the 2009-2012 period, with a total of 15 people facing accusations at the trial.

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