A French court on Tuesday ordered the French subsidiary of Ikea to pay a €1 million fine for spying on hundreds of employees and some unhappy customers.
Two former Ikea France executives were convicted and fined over the scheme and handed suspended prison sentences.
The court in Versailles found that Ikea”s French subsidiary used illegal surveillance means between 2009 and 2012 to sift out trouble-makers in its ranks and to profile customers in dispute with Ikea.
Lawyers for Ikea France denied the company had a strategy of “generalised espionage”.
The scandal broke nearly a decade ago, when trade unions accused the French branch of the international furniture chain of illegally collecting personal data on its staff, and of paying to access police files on targeted individuals, particularly union activists.
After French prosecutors opened a criminal probe in 2012, the company fired four executives and changed its policies.
The executive who was in charge of risk management at the time of the spying, Jean-Francois Paris, told the judges that €530,000 to €630,000 a year were earmarked for such investigations. He said his department was working on the orders of former Ikea France CEO Jean-Louis Baillot.
Paris was fined €10,000 and given an 18-month suspended sentence. Baillot, who denied ordering a spy operation, was fined €50,000 and given a two-year suspended sentence.
In total, 15 defendants took the stand during the trial, including former company executives, shop managers, as well as police officers and the head of a private investigation firm.
In one situation, Ikea France was accused of using unauthorised information to try to catch an employee who had claimed unemployment benefits but drove a Porsche.
In another alleged instance of illegal prying, the subsidiary reportedly investigated an employee’s criminal record to determine how the employee was able to own a BMW on a low income.