According to CCTV's investigations, Nikon's customer service in China has been blaming the haze and smog for black particles found inexplicably in photos taken with its D600 camera, priced at more than RMB10,000.
The provisions of the Nikon warranty state that if performance problems occur during the warranty period that are unresolved after at least two repairs, a customer can ask for a refund. Many users in the CCTV programme have sent their D600 cameras for cleaning up to six times.
However, customer-service staff filmed by undercover CCTV reporters rejected those requests, using an analogy from the car industry. "Cleaning is not considered a repair job," one said. "Say, if you send your car for maintenance for 100 times, will they give you a new car?"
Nikon China reacted by posting a Sina Weibo entry a few hours after the programme ended stating that the company "attaches great importance to the CCTV 3.15 show about Nikon D600 reports" and will have "relevant follow-up measures with service outlets across the country". However, it took until the evening of 16 March for the company to announce specific measures.
The reaction apparently did not do enough to appease authorities in Shanghai; the SAIC (Shanghai Administration of Industry and Commerce) ordered the camera removed from stores yesterday.
The brand will offer existing D600 users free inspections as well as cleaning services. If the problem is still not resolved, Nikon will provide free replacement parts, with Nikon bearing the freight costs. Nikon's PR agency in China, Marketing Resource Group (MRGC), could not be reached for comment.
Nikon has to be considered one of the bigger casualties from this year's 3.15 exposé, as it was the subject of a full 11-minute segment. Industry insiders who asked to remain anonymous remarked that this may be due to deteriorating Sino-Japanese relations over the past 18 months.
Australian dairy brand OzMilko and Singaporean bakery BreadTalk received only passing mentions for issues concerning doctored expiry dates. OzMilko altered expiry dates on its baby formula cans, and expired food ingredients like flour and chocolates from a Hangzhou supplier were traced to BreadTalk and other food companies, according to the programme.
Consumers have not always stood on the side of CCTV. Some Chinese netizens criticised the national broadcaster last year for accusing Starbucks of high prices, saying CCTV was placing attention on less pressing issues in the country.
Both Elan Shou, managing director cum senior vice president of Ruder Finn China, as well as Tony Tao, China co-president cum managing director of Edelman Shanghai and Guangzhou, felt the investigations were fact-based and thus fair this time. Though, "it is important to note that this year's program was perceived to be mild”, concluded Antoine Calendrier, general manager at Waggener Edstrom China.