Greece's Supreme Court (Areios Pagos, the "Court") in its recent decision no 1/2017 on a dispute between a commercial company against two ex-senior employees, legitimised the right of employers to retrieve employees’ past electronic communications, including personal e-mails, and use them as evidence before the Court with the aim of proving unfair anti-competitive actions. The Court noted that there is no privacy breach in such circumstances, and the employee’s consent is not required.

The case involved exploitation of corporate information by senior employees who moved to a competitor company, at approximately the same time that major clients of the company also moved to the same competitor. The claimant company retrieved and disclosed to the Court files and data from the hard discs of the corporate PCs which the employees used while employed, and electronic communications made via their corporate e-mail addresses with third parties (customers, competitors, etc.).

In reaching their decision, the Court emphasised the employee's duty of loyalty to the employer, based on Greek law provisions, which obliges the employee not to engage in competitive activities detrimental to the employer's interests.

The Court ruled that this use of personal data by the employer was aimed at safeguarding commercial good faith and free competition. Using the ex-employees’ personal data, in order to prove they had acted unfairly and harmfully to the employer, was found to be legitimate. The Court took into account that this personal data did not pertain to the subjects’ private life but referred to their professional career and future.

Submitted by Viktoria Chatzara of Rokas Law Firm – Athens, Greece in partnership with DAC Beachcroft LLP