French firm denies Ikea spying link

A French security company tied to a legal complaint alleging that Swedish furniture giant Ikea illegally spied on staff and customers denied involvement on Saturday, blaming a renegade former employee.

French firm denies Ikea spying link

Prosecutors in Versailles near Paris on Thursday opened an investigation into the affair following a complaint from a trade union and a report in satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine.

Ikea also said it would examine claims that the firm paid for illegal access to secret French police files in order to gain information about its employees, clients and even people who came near its property, Ikea said.

Le Canard published what it said were email exchanges between the head of the company’s risk management department, Jean-Francois Paris, and Yann Messian of Surete International about getting access to the police force’s STIC files.

The controversial STIC file system has been criticised for being an unreliable database of millions of names and personal information about crime perpetrators, victims and even witnesses.

The newspaper said that Surete International offered access to the files for €80 ($101) a time, as well as to a database of vehicle owners.

The report quoted emails requesting information on employees, including union members, on the names associated with a list of mobile phone numbers and asking to know who were the owners of certain car registrations.

A statement sent to AFP on Saturday said the former management of Surete International, which was wound up in 2011, denied responsibility for everything attributed to it.

The statement said the employee cited by the Canard Enchaine had already been informed of his dismissal for lack of results and disloyalty when he used Surete International’s email address to make an “illicit proposal” to Ikea’s risk manager on behalf of another company run by a friend.

“Any proposal or contract he might have made as commercial director would have been without the knowledge of his own management,” it said, while claiming the Ikea had not followed up the contact.

Surete International’s former boss Christophe Naudin told AFP the company had worked with Ikea in an advisory capacity since 1998 “but not for this type of inquiry”.

Messian for his part denied being behind any misuse of the STIC files, telling the rue89 website he had only “repeated something that Christophe Naudin told me”, without elaborating.

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Ikea will buy back your used furniture at up to half the price

In the run-up to what would in normal times be the festive season sales rush, Ikea has vowed to buy back used furniture from customers to resell – and pay up to 50 percent of the original price.

Ikea will buy back your used furniture at up to half the price
Got any pieces of Ikea furniture at home? You may be able to get rid of it and get money back. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Ikea, the world's largest furniture chain, said Tuesday it would begin buying back used furniture from customers to resell – and pay up to 50 percent of the original price.

The “Buy Back Friday” scheme, timed to coincide with the “Black Friday” pre-Christmas retail frenzy, will run from November 24th and until December 3rd in 27 countries.

“Rather than buy things you don't need this Black Friday, we want to help customers give their furniture a second life instead of making an impulse buy,” said Stefan Vanoverbeke, deputy retail operations manager at Ingka Group, Ikea's parent company.

To address concerns its affordable, flat-pack products encourage overconsumption and waste, the Swedish company had previously said it would start renting and recycling furniture as part of an eco-drive.

Under its buyback scheme, the group said that “anything that can't be resold will be recycled or donated to community projects to help those most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

“Some countries like Australia and Canada for example are currently testing different buyback services, but BuyBack Friday will be the first time that 27 countries do this together,” the statement added.

The Swedish giant employs over 217,000 people and has more than 50 outlets. Its annual turnover is around 40 billion euros ($46 billion).

The group did not specify how it would determine the price paid for second-hand furniture and customers will receive a voucher, not cash, for their products.  

As part of efforts to reduce waste, Ikea has already begun repairing and re-packaging products in every store that have been damaged in transit, as well as allowing customers to return products – including furniture – for resale or donation to charities.