In France, Ikea has been fined €1 million – equivalent to over £860,000 – after being found guilty of spying on employees over a span of several years. 

The furniture giant was found guilty of gathering and improperly storing data on staff by paying for access to police records and scrutinising bank records.

On several instances, it has been alleged that the company used information obtained illegally to cross-check facts stated by staff.

An example of this included the brand supposedly accessing an employee’s criminal record to determine how they could afford to drive a BMW on low income.

In another, a senior member of staff at Ikea France has been accused of posing as an airline worker. This was allegedly in order to investigate whether a different employee was faking a year-long illness after managers learnt she had travelled to Morocco.

Other allegations include using fake employees to write up reports about staff and running undisclosed checks on job applicants and staff alike.

However, the court also heard that this surveillance technique extended to spying on customers as well. It has been stated that the company may have profiled customers and used this information during disputes with customers.

In addition, the company also faces potential damages from separate lawsuits filed by unions and 74 employees.

Jean-Louis Baillot, the former CEO of Ikea France, was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence and fined €500,000 for storing personal data.

In addition to this, a further 15 people including several HR employees, police officers, private investigators and store managers, were also facing allegations.

Since the allegations first surface in 2012, the company have overhauled its internal policy and has since been absolved of systematically violating personal data.

A spokesperson for the company said:

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

However, Pamela Tabardel, a Prosecutor, asked the court to hand “an exemplary sentence and a strong message to all companies.”

Last year, clothing company H&M were hit with a €35 million fine after a German data protection watchdog found that, in Nuremberg, the retailer had monitored hundreds of employees since at least 2014.