Ikea France on trial for spying on staff and customers

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Ikea France on trial for spying on staff and customers



VERSAILLES, France – Ikea’s French subsidiary and several of its former executives were tried on Monday on charges of unlawfully spying on employees and customers.

VERSAILLES, France – Ikea’s French subsidiary and several of its former executives were tried on Monday on charges of unlawfully spying on employees and customers.
The unions denounced the furniture and household goods company to French authorities in 2012, accusing it of collecting personal data by fraudulent means and of unlawfully disclosing personal information.

The unions alleged that Ikea France paid for access to police files containing information on targeted people, in particular union activists and customers in conflict with Ikea.

The company sacked four executives and changed internal policies after French prosecutors opened a criminal investigation in 2012. But during Monday’s trial in Versailles court, Ikea France’s lawyers denied any strategy for “Widespread espionage”.

Ikea employee and CGT union activist Hocine Redouane said in Monday’s trial that the company falsely suspected him of being a bank robber because their investigation system found criminal records implicating a bank robber of the same name.

“Such a system can easily fall into abuse,” Redouane said.

Another charge alleged that Ikea France used unauthorized data to try to catch an employee who had applied for unemployment benefits but was driving a Porsche. Another says the branch investigated an employee’s criminal record to determine how the employee was able to own a BMW on a low income.

The former head of risk management at Ikea France, Jean-François Paris, admitted to French judges that 530,000 to 630,000 euros per year (633,000 to 753,000 dollars) were spent on such investigations. Paris, who is among the defendants, said his department was responsible for managing it.

Former Ikea France CEOs Jean-Louis Baillot and Stefan Vanoverbeke, former CFO Dariusz Rychert, store managers and police officers are also on trial.

If found guilty, the two ex-CEOs face penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines of 750,000 euros. Ikea France faces a maximum penalty of 3.75 million euros. The trial is expected to last until April 2.

The company also faces potential damages due to civil lawsuits brought by unions and 74 employees.

Anne-Solène Bouvier, employee lawyer, argued that the case is important for French society as a whole. “The right to privacy of employees must be sacred,” she said.

Ikea France, a subsidiary of Swedish furniture company Ikea, said on Monday cooperated with the French judicial authorities.

“Ikea France takes the protection of the data of its employees and customers very seriously,” the company said in a statement. He said he adopted compliance and training procedures to prevent illegal activities after the investigation was initiated in 2012.

Ikea France’s lawyer, Emmanuel Daoud, said there was no pouffe for a “generalized espionage system”. The lawyer for the company’s former human resources director called the case a “fairy tale” invented by union activists.

In France, Ikea employs more than 10,000 people in 34 stores, an e-commerce site and customer support centre.

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Nicolas Vaux-Montagny reported from Lyon. Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

By Nicolas Vaux-Montagny and Oleg Cetinic, The Associated Press

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