Ikea is appearing in court for allegedly spying on its customers and employees, as two of the group’s former chief executives face up to 10 years in prison.
The group’s French subsidiary could receive fines of up to £3.2m after being accused of paying for illegal access to police files.
Force Ouvriere, a French trade union, opened the case in 2012 after deciding to take legal action to unearth the “surveillance and espionage service” in operation by Ikea’s management team.
Commencing today (22 March), the Court of Versailles trial involves the actions of 19 defendants, including ex-chief executives Jean-Louis Baillot and Stefan Vanoverbeke.
Both Baillot and Vanoverbeke face fines of over £640,000 and 10-year prison sentences for their roles in buying information from France’s STIC system.
Moreover, four French police officers are set to stand trial, with four Ikea France executives already sacked.
According to court documents seen by RTÉ, the spying system racked up an annual bill of over £500,000.
The CGT, a trade union with representatives within Ikea, said that it is “unacceptable to set up a system of surveillance of employees”, stating that the police’s promotion of private enterprise is “in violation of the most basic rules of law”.
It added: “Severe sanctions will have to be imposed in order to dissuade companies from spying on their employees and union representatives in the future to prevent the latter from exercising their constitutional right to represent and defend workers.”