Ikea 'paid police' for files on customers who complained

Posted Mar 1, 2012 by Yukio Strachan
Ikea, the Swedish furniture giant, reportedly paid private investigators for illegal access to police files in order to illegally monitor 'complaining' customers and 'suspicious' staff at stores in France.
IKEA s store
IKEA's store
Ross Chapman/flickr
"This case brings discredit on the whole group and its leaders for years. We ask Ikea to immediately suspend from office the director of risk management at Ikea France Jean-Francois Paris, "said Tariq, a city official.
The newspaper Le Parisien reported that ten IKEA employees filed a formal complaint on Thursday morning at Versailles against Ikea France for "fraudulent use of personal data," provided to executives from private investigators, including information from the police file STIC.
STIC (Système de traitement des infractions constatées) is a centralized records system which groups together data from police investigations, including both suspected criminals and their victims.
Accessing the documents without authorization is against the law, said The Local.
France's weekly paper, Le Canard Enchaîné, known for its investigative journalism, published Wednesday what it said were emails in which Ikea managers asked for police information to carry out checks on criminal records, vehicle registrations, mobile phone numbers, links to political groups, and even potential terrorist affiliations on more than 200 employees and customers, said the France edition of The Local .
"The information was then used in deciding whether to fire certain staff members or provide intelligence on customers involved in legal disputes with them," reported the Daily Mail.
From 2003 to 2009, reports the Le Canard Enchaîné, the Swedish furniture giant had entered a secret agreement with International Security, a security company, that allowed them to collect information on past employees or customers deemed "suspicious" by the company.
In one email, according to Bikya Masr news, the head of risk management at IKEA asked whether a customer who was suing the chain was "known to police" and asked for a check on her address.
Suspicious employees
As far as employees, one email reportedly requested information on someone, claiming they made "anti-globalisation remarks" and could even be an "ecoterrorist risk."
Mediapart investigative news site reported that Ikea managers sought confidential information about the bank accounts of staff members.
The website also published what it said was an email from an Ikea manager to a private detective, in which the Ikea manager asks for police records and spending habits of a employee who had been seen “driving a ‘new’ BMW convertible”.
Mediapart also published an email which appeared to show that the manager of an Ikea store in Paris had obtained access to confidential police files on an investigation involving trade union activity at the store.
The newspaper reported that each check on the police files cost IKEA €80 ($108).
Controversy over the years
Last year, employees at the Ikea plant in Danville, Va., voted to join a union, complaining that their working conditions were akin to those in a developing country.
In the 2010 expose, The Truth about Ikea: The Secret Behind the World's Fifth Richest Man and the Success of the Flatpack Giant, the author claimed that IKEA had a "complex Stasi-like business culture with spies", racism and nepotism.
Vowed to investigate
IKEA France vowed to investigate in order to "shed light on the situation."
"The allegations have come to our knowledge and we look very seriously upon it. We have started an internal investigation to find out if there is any truth to it," Ikea's Sweden-based spokesperson Ylva Magnusson told the Local.
"We disapprove in the strongest possible way of all these kinds of illegal practices which are an affront to important values such as respect for a person's private life."
Ikea intends to carry out a full investigation of its business in France but stresses that “our own investigation in no way amounts to any kind of admission that these practices have been carried out,” Magnusson, said.
Victims of IKEA
The charge can carry up to five years in prison.
Employees also plan to launch an association for victims of IKEA ("Association de Défense des Victimes d'IKEA") for employees, union representatives and customers who may have been affected by the alleged activities.