Nikon attempts to allay fears of fair treatment among Chinese customers


Mon, Mar 17, 2014 - Page 15

Japan’s Nikon Corp has moved to allay consumer fears in China after being criticized on a closely watched consumer show that said the cameramaker had sold defective products in China and denied local consumers fair treatment in aftersales service.

The firm, which had sales of ¥118 billion (US$1.16 billion) in China last year, said yesterday it was taking the report “very seriously” and had moved to improve its after-sales network in China, according to its official microblog sites.

Criticism in Chinese state media can have a long-lasting impact, particularly in cases of corruption and food safety scandals, which have hit some firms over the past year, including French foodmaker Danone SA to British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline PLC.

An annual investigative special on China Central Television (CCTV) called 3.15, similar to the CBS network’s 60 Minutes in the US, said late on Saturday that some of Nikon’s D600 cameras had black specks on the lens, and accused the firm of refusing requests to replace the defective products.

The show suggested that Nikon consumers in the US receive better treatment, echoing the attack in last year’s show on smartphone maker Apple Inc’s China warranties, which prompted a rare apology from the giant US technology firm.

“From today, based around an attitude of responsibility toward our users, Nikon will continue to offer our customers in the China market a high-quality, standardized global service,” Nikon said on its Chinese microblogging site.

The 3.15 spotlight often spooks multinational firms and their public relations teams into crisis mode, but this year left other big international firms relatively unscathed, choosing to focus on smaller, domestic players.

Last year, 3.15, one of the most widely watched shows in China, singled out Apple for its after sales service and German carmaker Volkswagen AG over gearbox issues.

Fast-food outlet McDonald’s Corp, supermaket chain Carrefour SA and home products firm Procter & Gamble Co have also previously come under the show’s spotlight.

Yet CCTV has come under fire in China over the past year, with some consumers rushing to defend its targets. Younger generations are also turning away from traditional CCTV shows, attracted to imported dramas online.

Shoppers, economists and even internal CCTV staff criticized a TV report in October targeting high prices at US coffee chain Starbucks Corp.

Firms have also got wise. Nikon itself has launched a 3.15 campaign, while German carmaker BMW said on Friday it would recall an unspecified number of vehicles proactively in China after months of consumer complaints.