Brussels (Brussels Morning) The French subsidiary of the Swedish furniture giant IKEA was found guilty of spying on its employees and customers, and will have to pay a fine of 1 million euro, in a symbolic verdict condemning the global flatpack conglomerate’s practices at a local level.
The trial in France began as trade unions reported the local subsidiary, IKEA France, for a number of improper and potentially illegal business practices in 2012, including misuse of personal data of its employees and some customers.
The unions alleged that company executives had paid for access to police files containing information on targeted individuals, that the company illegally accessed personal information of customers in dispute with the company, and that it had sought information on company employees on at least two separate occasions.
Even though IKEA France denied all charges, its parent company, Ingka Group, which owns most IKEA stores worldwide, fired four of its French executives soon after the police opened an official criminal investigation into the trade union’s claims.
In addition to the 1 million euro fine, which the French CGT union welcomed despite it being half the amount the prosecutors had sought, 15 individuals stood trial in the case.
The subsidiary’s former CEO Jean-Louis Baillot was found guilty, and handed a two-year suspended prison sentence, as well as a 50,000 euro fine for misusing personal data. Two people were found not guilty. The remainder were cleared of some charges, but convicted of illegal appropriation of personal data. Their penalties included fines, and a number of suspended prison sentences.
The company claims it has now eliminated all illegal practices. It emphasised that it has implemented a scheme to prevent anything similar from occurring in the future. It also offered apologies to all affected staff and customers.