Nikon faces China probe over dust problem

Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Industry and Commerce is investigating allegations of a recurring defect in the Nikon D600 camera, following the broadcast of a consumer rights report on CCTV.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

The Chinese government has initiated an investigation into Nikon following a TV report that alleged the camera maker sold defective goods to consumers.

State-owed broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported during its annual Gala news program aired Saturday that local consumers had complained about dust buildup in the image sensor of the Nikon D600 camera. The program focuses on business misconduct and aims to protect consumer rights. CCTV began broadcasting the program in 1991 on March 15, which is World Consumer Rights Day.  

The CCTV report profiled an individual who arranged for the image sensor in his D600 to be cleaned five times, but the dust problem kept recurring. Du Yang, who owns the camera, was featured using the camera after it was cleaned at Nikon's Shanghai service center, only to have the dust issue return after 10 shots. The camera was cleaned again but dust particles were visible again after Du took some pictures.

A day after the program was aired, the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Industry and Commerce said it had launched a probe to look into the issues highlighted in the CCTV report, according to Xinhua. The news agency cited Shi Shulu, deputy director of the bureau's Consumers' Rights Protection Department, to say the local government would assess the complaints before deciding what measures to take.

Some e-commerce websites in the country, including Suning.com and JD.com, pulled Nikon D600 cameras from their online shelves over the weekend and replaced it with the D610. But the alleged defective camera remains on sale on China's biggest e-commerce operator, Taobao, as of Sunday afternoon. 

China's consumer rights rule states that owners of digital cameras have the right to ask for a refund or replacement if the product still does not function properly after it has been repaired twice by the manufacturer. Nikon, however, said in the CCTV report that a cleaning job does not constitute as a repair. 

The TV broadcaster said Nikon had refused requests by D600 users including Du for a refund or free upgrade to the newer model D610, noting that the Japanese camera maker had acceded to such requests in the U.S., where it offered D600 owners free upgrades to the D610.

Nikon China said via its microblog that it viewed the CCTV report as important and aimed to offer Chinese consumers high quality, standardized global service. The company on February 26 said in a service advisory that D600 owners could receive a free inspection to clean and replace the shutter assembly, and associated parts, but did not explain what caused the dust problem. 

China amended its consumer rights laws--which took effect on Saturday--giving consumers the right to return goods they purchased via the Internet, television, telephone or mail within seven days from the date of receipt.

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