French retailer apologises for insulting its 'stupid' customers

PARIS (AFP) - French high-tech retailer Boulanger apologised on Saturday for vitriolic comments about its customers in its computer files and promised an internal investigation.

France's CNIL privacy and data protection agency found 5,828 instances of "inappropriate" comments about clients in the company's files, including: "stupid" "fat b****", "ball-breaker", "retard", "Jew", "strong African accent", "alcoholic" and "nutcase".

After a public upbraiding by the watchdog, which gave the company three months to ensure its files contain only pertinent information about clients, Boulanger apologised.

"They were rare occurences, but did happen and we shouldn't try to not own up to this serious failure," Boulanger managing director Etienne Hurez said in statement, asking clients to accept his apology for the "unacceptable comments".

He said the company would conduct its own probe into the thousands of below-the-belt comments and comply with the CNIL's orders.

Boulanger is controlled by the Mulliez family, which owns many of France's top retailers, including supermarket chain Auchan, DIY shops Leroy Merlin and sporting goods outfit Decathlon.