French court slaps $1.2 million fine on Ikea for spying on employees

After the world’s largest furniture retailer was found guilty of illegally collecting and keeping data on its workers, a French court ordered Ikea to pay a 1-million-euro ($1.2 million) punishment for spying on its French employees.

Over a period of years, the French division of Ingka Group, which controls the majority of Ikea shops globally, was accused of spying on its employees and certain customers. The flatpack furniture company, which has admitted to certain unethical activities, was accused of violating workers’ privacy by examining their bank account data and, on occasion, employing fictitious employees to write reports on them.

After the company trawled data on people’s finances and even what vehicles they drove, worker representatives claimed the information was used to target union leaders in certain instances or utilized to Ikea’s advantage in customer disputes.

It was also discovered that it had paid for access to police records. Prosecutors had pushed for a punishment of 2 million euros. The ultimate sum was not large, but lawyers representing France’s CGT union and numerous people seeking compensation said they were pleased with the result.

Although prosecutors said the surveillance techniques started in the early 2000s, the accusations focused on the years 2009-2012. The trial included a total of 15 defendants. Two of the accused, including a police officer and Stefan Vanoverbeke, who managed Ikea in France from 2010 to 2015 and currently has a prominent role in the company’s retail operations, were found not guilty of all allegations against them. Others were acquitted on certain counts, such as routinely disclosing private information, but found guilty of others, such as acquiring personal data unlawfully.

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