IKEA France punished for spying on its employees

Swedish furniture giant IKEA has been hit with a fine of €1 million (about $1.2 million). The fine comes after an investigation into IKEA’s French retail division that resulted in a trial for spying primarily on employees. According to AFP, French courts in Versailles ruled that IKEA France engaged in a spying scheme that affected numerous employees. Additionally, Jean-Louis Baillot, head of IKEA France at the time of the crimes, was given an 18-month suspended prison sentence and was ordered to pay €50,000 in restitution.

The courts focused on a series of IKEA spying incidents that occurred between the years 2009 and 2012. Though prosecutors assert that the system used to surveil existed longer than this, the most damning evidence comes from this time frame. French media reported in 2012 that, in AFP’s words, “IKEA’s management had obtained private personal data on employees, including people active in labour unions or works councils.” Such data ranged from private purchases made by employees to their political affiliations or activities related to these political affiliations. The surveillance network was elaborate and sought to dig into countless details of employees’ private lives.

Baillot asserted his innocence throughout the trial and subsequent ruling, stating that he was considering an appeal. IKEA France issued the following statement following the conclusion of the case:

Ikea takes the protection of co-worker and customer data very seriously… IKEARetail France has strongly condemned the practices, apologised and implemented a major action plan to prevent this from happening again… We will now review the court’s decision in detail and consider if and where any additional measures are necessary.

Though IKEA’s reputation has taken a hit from this case, many affected by the spying do not believe the ruling is strong enough. Alexis Perrin, a lawyer for IKEA union members in Lyon, stated as much by saying, “These amounts are not enough to force IKEA or other companies to change their behaviour.” In all, the 120 plaintiffs in the case are expected to receive €1,000 to €10,000 each.

Featured image: Flickr / Gerard Stolk

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