* Nikon criticized by consumer watchdog show
* Camera maker taking TV report "very seriously"
* Official TV expose can sting firms in China
By Adam Jourdan
SHANGHAI, March 16 Japan's Nikon Corp
has moved to allay consumer fears in China after being
criticised on a closely watched consumer show that said the
camera maker had sold defective products in China and denied
local consumers fair treatment in aftersales service.
The firm, which had sales of 118 billion yen ($1.16 billion)
in China in 2013, said on Sunday 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 last 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 United States, 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 United States
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 U.S. tech firm.
"From today, based around an attitude of responsibility
towards our users, Nikon will continue to offer our customers in
the China market a high-quality, standardised global service,"
Nikon said in Chinese on the country's Twitter-like Weibo.
The "3.15" expose 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.
A short segment warned consumers about the dangers of online
payments, coming after China's central bank halted the mobile
payment processes of IPO-bound Alibaba Group Holdings
and Tencent Holdings Ltd.
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.
But CCTV has come under fire in China over the last 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 criticised
a TV report in October targeting high prices at U.S. 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.
"We have learned a lot from the last experience," said a
spokeswoman from Volkswagen, which was caught in the spotlight
State TV exposes like "3.15", however, remain dangerous for
firms in China, and marketing experts said that without damage
control the impact could be significant.
KFC parent Yum Brands Inc has struggled to quell
anger over Chinese media reports in late 2012 about excessive
antibiotic use by a few KFC suppliers in China.
"How companies first respond to a crisis will determine its
severity and longevity in consumers' minds," Colleen Cheng,
co-managing director of Ogilvy PR Beijing said, ahead of the