SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's annual consumer rights day television show turned its spotlight on U.S. sports brand Nike Inc NKE.N for misleading advertising and Japanese brand Muji for selling food products allegedly sourced from part of Japan affected by radiation.
The state-run China Central Television (CCTV) show - which can have brands and their corporate PR teams scurrying to take evasive action - said Nike had misled consumers over high-tech air cushions in some of its “Hyperdunk” basketball shoes.
Similar to CBS network's "60 Minutes" in the United States, the CCTV show - known as "315" in reference to global consumer rights day on March 15 - has previously named and shamed firms from Apple Inc AAPL.O to Volkswagen AG VOWG_p.DE.
The two-hour show - a mix of undercover reports and song-and-dance - also highlighted Japanese brands including Muji, owned by Ryohin Keikaku Co 7453.T, which it said sold food products in China from an area of Tokyo where high levels of radiation were detected in 2015.
A Ryohin Keikaku spokesman said on Thursday the firm was “not selling any food products in China from areas banned from exporting due to concerns about radioactive contamination”.
Muji’s China website said it was a misunderstanding, as the company’s registered address and the food production site were different.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Japan had not given clear answers about the effect and extent of radiation leaks from the Fukushima nuclear crisis of 2011 and called for greater transparency.
Nike said in a statement it had sold 300 pairs of Hyperdunk shoes in China last year with “an inaccurate product description stating that the shoe contained airbags”. The firm added it had apologized to consumers and offered compensation.
“We will fully cooperate with the government regulators regarding their inquiries,” the company said. The Greater China region accounts for over 10 percent of Nike’s global sales.
The show also took aim at fake eye doctors for scamming patients, animal breeders for over-using medicines to make animals grow faster, and China’s Wikipedia-like Baike.com.
The 315 show can hit a firm’s reputation if singled out for bad corporate behavior. Apple was forced into a rare apology in 2013 after criticism on the show of its China after-sales service.
“Pretty much all the big corporations have their PR machines ready to jump into action because they’ve seen what happens when companies are not prepared,” said James Feldkamp, Shanghai-based CEO of independent China consumer watchdog Mingjian.
While the annual program has lost some of its bite in recent years, Wednesday’s version was harder hitting than last year’s, which criticized local food delivery apps, fake online sales and dodgy false teeth, but didn’t take aim at any major international firms.
However, many in China steered clear of the show altogether, while online chatter was more muted than in previous years. Viewers who tuned in said they were underwhelmed by the show’s corporate exposés and any impact would likely be short-lived.
“This year’s show was a laughing stock, there weren’t any really big cases in there,” posted one user on Sina Weibo using the name Master Tan Xi. “Why do they bother still holding it?”
Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING, Makiko Yamazaki in TOYKO and Gayathree Ganesan in BANGALORE; Editing by Ian Geoghegan and Clarence Fernandez
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