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Ikea France fined €1m for spying on staff

It has also been charged with storing illegally obtained data.

Allie Nawrat


Ikea France spying
Credit: YULIASIS via Twenty20.

Employee surveillance is back in the news. Unleash Your People

  • Ikea France has been found guilty of improperly gathering (and storing) employee private data.
  • As a result, it has been fined €1m.
  • The company’s former CEO Jean-Louis Baillot was also fined €500,000 and given a two-year suspended sentence.

Ikea France has been found guilty by a French court for spying on its workers, as well as some of its clients. It was also found guilty of storing this illegally obtained data.

The retailer was found to have collected private data on staff and job applicants with the help of private security firm Eirpace, private detectives, and French police officers.

In addition, former Ikea France CEO Jean-Louis Baillot has also been fined €500,000 and been given a two-year suspended jail term.

However, the prosecution had called for Ikea France to face a €2m fine for spying, as well as for Baillot to serve one year in prison, in addition to his suspended sentence.

An Ikea spokesperson said: “Ikea Retail France has today received the court’s decision. Ikea takes the protection of co-worker and customer data very seriously.

“Ikea Retail France has strongly condemned the practices, apologized and implemented a major action plan to prevent this from happening again.

“We will now review the court’s decision in detail and consider if and where any additional measures are necessary.” 

The case, which focused on incidents between 2009 and 2012 and went to court in March 2021, was based on the findings of journalists at Le Canard Enchaîné. Trade unions in France then decided to take legal action against the retailer.

According to reporting by the BBC, Ikea responded to the surfacing of the initial allegations in 2012 by firing four managers and introducing a new code of conduct.

Baillot was not the only individual on trial. Of the other 14 defendants, who were either former or current Ikea employees or police officers, two were found not guilty of all charges, according to the Guardian.

This included a police officer and Ikea France CEO from 2010 to 2015 Stefan Vanoverbeke, who still holds a senior role in the company’s retail arm.

The remaining 12 defendants were found guilty of some charges – illegally obtaining personal data – but cleared of others, including systemically sharing that information. They were met with a range of punishments, including €5,000 and suspended prison sentences.

Of course, Ikea is not the only company to be dealing with employee surveillance issues, both in and out of court.

For example, Amazon has been under fire in the US for forcing its drivers to accept surveillance in their delivery trucks or face the sack, while Uber has been ordered by a court in the Netherlands to reinstate workers fired by an algorithm.

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