The Ikea store in France was found guilty of spying on its workers. So, the French court ordered the Swedish furniture chain to pay a fine of €1m ($1.2m).
Ikea was accused of violating its staff’s privacy by hiring private detectives and police officers to collect their personal information.
This involved illegally retrieving their criminal records to vet applicants for jobs.
Most of Ikea’s stores across the globe are owned by the Ingka group which has apologised and condemned the practices.
In a statement, the company said it had “implemented a major action plan to prevent this from happening again”.
Recently the former head of risk Jean-François Paris was given an 18-month suspension and was fined €10,000.
He once wanted to know how an employee could afford a new BMW convertible and asked why a staff member in Bordeaux had “suddenly become a protester”.
Moreover, former Ikea France CEO Jean-Louis Baillot was given a two-year suspended jail term and a €50,000 fine. His lawyer told – Mr Baillot was “shocked” by the ruling and was considering an appeal.
But the prosecution sentenced a €2m fine for Ikea and for Baillot to spend a year in prison, along with a further two years suspended.
How did the spying work?
There were 15 people present at the Versailles court in France. This included top executives and former store managers.
Four police officers who handed over the confidential information of the staff were also on trial.
The case revolves around Ikea France’s surveillance of staff during 2009-2012. Store managers used the mass surveillance system to vet job applicants, as well as to check up on their staff.
They were accused of reviewing staff’s bank account records and using fake employees to report on workers.
The store manager Patrick Soavi told the court how he had got personal data from a cousin in the police. He asked police officer Alain Straboni to “cast an eye” over 49 candidates selected for Ikea jobs.
After some research, they got to know that three candidates had committed minor offences.
Later Mr Soavi sent another 68 names to be checked, and he was advised to drop five of the candidates.
“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.