Former Ikea France CEO fined after Swedish furniture chain found guilty of spying on staff

Former Ikea France CEO fined after Swedish furniture chain found guilty of spying on staff


The former Ikea France CEO fined of €1m (£860,000; $1.2m) after Swedish furniture chain found guilty of spying on staff 

The French subsidiary was found to have used private detectives and police officers to collect private data on staff. Evidence came to light in 2012.Stung by the affair, Ikea fired four managers and got a new code of conduct.

The 15 people in the dock at the Versailles court included top executives and former store managers.

Four police officers were also on trial for handing over confidential information.The mass surveillance system was used by store managers to vet job applicants, as well as checking up on their staff.

Ikea's annual bill for private investigators ran to as much as €600,000, AFP news agency reports, citing court documents.

In one case, AFP reports, the company's former head of risk wanted to know how an employee could afford a new BMW convertible; he also inquired why a staff member in Bordeaux had "suddenly become a protester".

That executive, Jean-François Paris, was given an 18-month suspended sentence and a €10,000 fine.

The prosecution had called for a €2m fine for Ikea and for Baillot to spend a year in prison, along with a further two years suspended.

The case centred on Ikea France's surveillance of staff during 2009-2012. The scandal was exposed by journalists, then trade unions took legal action.

The illegal surveillance covered about 400 people, state prosecutor Pamela Tabardel said.

"What's at stake is the protection of our private lives against the threat of mass surveillance," she said when the trial opened in March.

Managers were found to have used a private security firm, Eirpace, which in turn collected personal data from the police. It included information about lifestyles and any previous criminal convictions.

The Eirpace boss, Jean-Pierre Fourès, was given a two-year suspended sentence and a €20,000 fine.

When the trial opened, Ikea France issued a statement saying it "strongly condemned" the privacy violations and it apologised for "this situation which does serious harm to the company's values and ethical standards".

A lawyer for Ikea, Emmanuel Daoud, told AFP that the court had delivered "many acquittals", having "taken account of the efforts made by Ikea France". The firm had reformed its governance and set up an ethics committee, he noted.

The French daily Le Monde described how the spying worked at the Ikea store in Avignon.

Store manager Patrick Soavi told the court how he had got personal data from a cousin in the police.

"I recognise that I was very naïve and rather over-zealous, but we were being asked to carry out these checks, and once I'd put a foot inside this system it was too late," he said.

He asked the policeman, Alain Straboni, to "cast an eye" over 49 candidates selected for Ikea jobs.

After a search on the police computer the reply was that three of them had committed minor offences.

Later Mr Soavi sent another 68 names to be checked, and he was advised to drop five of the candidates.