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IKEA fined for spying on French employees, customers

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A French court has ordered IKEA to pay a one million euro ($A1.6 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.

It was accused of breaching employees’ privacy by reviewing records of their bank accounts and sometimes using fake employees to write up reports on staff.

The information was used to target union leaders 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 also paid for access to police files.

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Prosecutors had pushed for a two 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.

The company said it was reviewing the court decision to see if further measures were needed to stamp out the surveillance tactics.

“IKEA Retail France has strongly condemned the practices, apologised and implemented a major action plan to prevent this from happening again,” the Ingka group said.

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The allegations centred on 2009-12, although prosecutors said the spying began in the early 2000s.

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

Fifteen people were charged. Sanctions ranged from a 5000 euro fine to suspended sentences.

Two were found not guilty of all counts, including former IKEA France boss Stefan Vanoverbeke, who still has a senior position in the group’s retail operations.

-AAP

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