Ikea execs charged in French spying scandal

The CEO of Ikea in France and two other top executives were charged on Tuesday in connection with suspicions the French branch of the Swedish home furnishings giant illegally used police files to spy on staff and customers.

Ikea execs charged in French spying scandal
"We used to be proud of Ikea...Now all we feel is shame" one Ikea customer said in the wake of the scandal. File photo: The Local
Ikea France's CEO Stefan Vanoverbeke, CFO Dariusz Rychert and the company's former CEO, Jean-Louis Baillot, were charged with "complicity to collect personal data" and "complicity to violate professional secrecy", a judicial source told AFP.
All three were formally held for questioning by police in Versailles, near Paris, on Monday.
The charges follow police seizures at Ikea France's headquarters in the Paris suburbs earlier this month.
A spokeswoman for Ikea France, the Swedish furniture giant's local subsidiary, said the firm was aware of the latest developments.
"The company will continue to assist the establishment of the truth," she said.
Chief executive Vanoverbeke's lawyer said his client denied the charges.
"My client totally disputes his involvement in this matter. He's calmly awaiting the next steps in the process," said attorney Alexis Gublin.
Ikea France was itself on Tuesday charged as a legal entity and ordered to pay a deposit of €500,000 ($670,000) to secure possible compensation for the civil parties in the case, according to the same judicial source.
The Versailles prosecutors' office declined to comment on the report.
Prosecutors launched a criminal probe in April 2012 following allegations that Ikea France paid for illegal access to secret police files to gain information about employees and clients, including about their court and police records and bank accounts. A Swedish couple living in France also took legal action to force Ikea to admit to the practices.
"We are Swedish. We used to be proud of Ikea and Kamprad," Swede Pascal Denize told The Local at the time in reference to Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad.

"We used to toot their horn, defend their products. Now all we feel is shame”.

Keen to repair its reputation, Ikea France subsequently fired four employees, launched an internal inquiry and established a code of conduct to avoid a repeat of the scandal.
Several people had already been charged in connection with the case, including Ikea France's former risk management head Jean-Francois Paris.
Four civilian police employees have also been charged and are suspected of selling confidential police files to Ikea France.
Media reports have said sources were paid about 80 euros in each case to hand over files from the police STIC file system, which tracks millions of names and personal information about criminals, victims and even witnesses.
Reports alleged Ikea France requested information on its own employees, including union members, the owners of certain car registrations and names associated with a list of mobile phone numbers.
In one case the company allegedly asked for personal information on a customer who was suing it for €4,000.
The judicial probe in Versailles was opened after a complaint was filed by labour unions.
The company has 29 stores and 9,300 employees in France.

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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.