Ikea French Subsidiary Accused of Spying on Staff

Ariel C. Go
International Business News Writer

Former CEO Stefan Vanoverbeke, shown walking into court (Photo Courtesy of Google Images)

The Swedish multinational conglomerate Ikea was founded in 1943 selling furniture, kitchen appliances, and home accessories. Over the last decade, the home furnishings had approximately 400 stores worldwide and was named the world’s largest seller of furniture for the early 21st century. However, as the company continued to grow in value and influence, ethical issues concerning its workers have continued to surface. One such case would be the Ikea subsidiary located in France, which as a corporate entity, has been prosecuted in a court in Versailles along with various former executives, who may potentially face time in prison.

Ikea French has gone on trial after being charged with setting up and running an elaborate “spying system” throughout its operations. With this elaborate system, Ikea French has spied on staff utilizing police officers and detectives. The allegations first arose in 2012 when an Ikea insider disclosed emails between the Ikea French subsidiary and security business to a satirical newspaper, known as Le Canard Enchaîné. These emails hinted that the corporation wanted to obtain information about the private lives of hundreds of its customers and employees, including confidential information about criminal records. Two unions, including the Force Ourvrière union, filed a complaint against Ikea.
Since the disclosure of the emails, the company has terminated four executives. The court is currently in the process of investigating the four-year period between 2009 and 2012. However, some believe that the company has been spying on its staff for many years before that. A total of 15 people, from Ikea store managers to executives like former CEO Stefan Vanoverbeke, are being tried in court. In this group are also four police officers, who are alleged to have aided in the illegal spying system by handing over confidential information.

Despite these allegations and testimonials from various employees, lawyers of Ikea France have denied that there was a strategic system of “generalized espionage.” On March 19, the subsidiary also released a statement that it places a lot of importance on the protection of the data concerning their employees and customers. The parent company, which is headquartered in Sweden has distanced itself from this case, not wanting to be involved in the illegal spying practices of Ikea France.


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