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Nikon cameras latest to be stung by criticism on Chinese state TV

Charles Clover
A model displays the new FX-format digital single lens reflex (SLR) camera 'D600' from Japanese camera maker Nikon during a press preview in Tokyo.
Toru Yamanaka | AFP | Getty Images

Japan's Nikon was stung at the weekend by criticism from China's state broadcaster CCTV for selling defective products and poor customer service, becoming the latest in a long line of multinationals to be targeted by state media.

Nikon was making an effort to contain damage to its brand in China after CCTV claimed its D600 camera took bad quality pictures and that Nikon had refused to replace defective parts or fix the cameras.

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It was one of a half dozen companies profiled by the annual "consumer day" segment of the program 3.15, which is often used to vent nationalist sentiment and criticism of foreign business.

Compared to previous years, Saturday's Consumer Day edition of 3.15 was relatively mild, however. Last year, it singled out Apple for its poor customer service and German carmaker Volkswagen AG over gearbox problems.

It was the first time a Japanese company has been targeted by the programme, which some analysts attributed to the worsening political situation over disputed islands in the East China Sea and Japan's stance on atrocities committed during the second world war.

Previously, only US and European companies had come in for criticism by CCTV. Other companies to have been targeted have been McDonald's, the fast food restaurant, Carrefour, the supermarket chain, and Procter & Gamble, the consumer goods chain.

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But CCTV has also stumbled badly in some reports, such as a now infamous spot on Starbucks Coffee in October, which alleged that the company's coffee was too expensive. That prompted a flood of ridicule on social media sites to the effect that while it may be true, one can simply chose not to drink it.

In a statement issued two hours after the broadcast, Nikon China said it "pays great attention to CCTV's report on the Nikon D600", and it had taken steps last month to address quality concerns, as well as offered to replace defective cameras free of charge.

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CCTV quoted irate camera buyers complaining that spots appear on their pictures and that cleaning did not help. It charged that Nikon had refused to replace defective parts or replace or refund malfunctioning cameras.

"Nikon will continue providing quality service to consumers in China, based on an attitude that it takes responsibilities to its customers," the company said via Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter

CCTV's 3.15 is well known to foreign companies working in China, and public relations firms usually staff up the day of the program in case one of their clients "gets hit," in the words of one PR firm employee. Foreign firms develop crisis plans in case their brands are targeted.