Hitachi the Japanese plasma manufacturer is asking customers to indemnify both themselves and Australia’s largest CE retailer Harvey Norman from any future claims over Full HD. And if customers do, they get up to $1,500 and they can keep their TVs.
Hitachi is set to fork out thousands in compensation to customers who purchased their 50-inch Hitachi P50X01 1080i TV, which the company claims delivers the “Ultimate Full HD Experience,” despite the model only being 1080i and not 1080p.
SmartHouse can reveal that In recent weeks Hitachi has taken to offering consumers who purchased a 50-inch Hitachi P50X01 1080i TV from Harvey Norman the change to receive a refund of up to $1,500 on the condition that they indemnify both Hitachi Australia and Harvey Norman from any future claims regarding the purchase of the TV. Some have been offered refunds of over $5,000.
In one case a customer from Western Australia was told he would get $1,500 from Hitachi and that he could keep his 50-inch Hitachi 1080i plasma TV. In another case a South Australian consumer was offered over $5,000 as a full refund of the controversial TV.
Several consumers have told SmartHouse that they purchased the TVs believing them to be 1080p Full HD as opposed to 1080i Full HD.
Since we revealed the story that Harvey Norman had taken action against Hitachi over sale of the TVs, we have received five legal letters from Sydney legal firm, Blake Dawson. We cannot reveal the contents of these letters as the legal firm marked them “Not for publication”.
However, we can reveal that Hitachi has requested that 4Square Media pulls down the stories we have written as Hitachi claims they are misleading.
We disagree and have refused the demands of Hitachi’s legal advisors.
One Hitachi customer who feels that he has been “misled” by the Japanese company and by Harvey Norman is Todd Carrington of Western Australia.
He said: “I bought a Hitachi P50X01 plasma flat screen in September when they were first released and assumed it was a Full 1080p HD television. I was convinced that the Harvey Norman sales person told me that it was 1080p but I cannot prove this”.
He added: “About 2 weeks ago I received a phone call from Hitachi under the guise of a customer check up call, they wanted to find out if I had had any problems with the television and also wanted to explain progressive scan and what 1080i/1080p meant. They also told me that as a gesture of good will and as the price of the TV had dropped they were willing to offer $1,500 cash back on the television. At this stage I was not going to question this and asked for the form to be sent out so as I could make my claim”.
He added: “I received the form and it has a clause on it stating that “By accepting this offer, I/We confirm that there will be no further claims against either Harvey Norman or Hitachi Australia Pty Ltd regarding the purchase of this television. That’s when alarm bells started ringing. I was and am still under the impression that Full HD is 1080p and not 1080i, if I had known that this TV was a 1080i I would not have bought it. I am now going to talk to Harvey Norman to see where they stand on the matter.
“I want a full refund so that I can buy a Panasonic 50-inch plasma which I know is Full HD and 1080p”.
The managing director of Adelaide-based production company, Trace Elements Media, which specialises in Full HD production and editing has been offered over $5,000 as a refund for his Hitachi plasma TV on the condition that he also indemnifies both Harvey Norman and Hitachi Australia Ltd.
On the refund form which is in our possession Hitachi have refused to pay for the extended warranty he purchased from Harvey Norman in Adelaide. He claims in emails to SmartHouse that he was taken in by what he describes as “Misleading Advertising by Hitachi”.
According to Harvey Norman Auburn franchisee – electrical, Grant Knight, if customers contact their local Harvey Norman store they will receive a refund which will come from Hitachi. However, Harvey Norman is calling the system a “replacement process” to encourage customers to spend their refund on another high definition screen from a Harvey Norman store.
“If someone is upset that they have a 1080i screen instead of a 1080p one then they get a refund,” said Knight.
One franchisee at Harvey Norman Bondi Junction has actually contacted two valued customers to let them know of the debacle and offer them a “replacement”.
When SmartHouse visited Harvey Norman in Chatswood this weekend we found the Hitachi 50-inch P50X01 1080i was still on sale. It was also being marketed as “Full HD”.
When SmartHouse questioned the salesman he initially said that the model was 1080p. When we asked him to check this he came back and apologised and said that it was 1080i “But was still Full HD” he said.
He was then joined by another Harvey Norman sales executive who when asked about the Hitachi controversy relating to this screen he admitted that he knew there was an issue. Without any prompting from myself he said “Harvey Norman were initially told that this screen was 1080p which it clearly is not.”
When SmartHouse first broke this story Hitachi management described our story as “unethical, unacceptable and misleading journalism”.
They went on to say “Hitachi Australia would like to take this opportunity to strongly refute the unfounded claims made today by SmartHouse in an article titled ‘Retail sparks Fly over Hitachi Full HD claims'”.
They go on to say “In this article David Richards makes specific claims that Hitachi has been accused by Harvey Norman of intentionally misleading consumers on the capabilities of our P50X01 Full High Definition plasma television. Harvey Norman made no such statement about the Hitachi TV range,” the statement said.
We accept that Harvey Norman made no such claim on the record. But off the record they did and the actions of Hitachi in offering refunds on the basis of indemnity for both them and Harvey Norman clearly reveals that there has been a dispute over the issue of Full HD.
Maybe Hitachi doesn’t believe that they misled consumers. However several consumers that have contacted SmartHouse believe that they were misled when purchasing the Hitachi plasma. We believe that both Harvey Norman and Hitachi have misled consumers. However in the case of Harvey Norman we believe that it was not deliberate and that they also may have been under the impression that the Hitachi screens were in fact 1080p and not 1080i .
What Hitachi is attempting to do by their statement and their actions in slamming SmartHouse is engage in damage limitation and protect their brand and reputation?
In the Hitachi statement issued in an attempt to smear SmartHouse Hitachi goes on to say “At the centre of Mr Richards claim is the definition of the term Full HD. According to the article a range of industry experts from both retailers and manufacturers define Full HD to mean purely the 1080p video standard. On Hitachi’s information, and on technical advice Hitachi has in its possession to date, this definition of the term Full HD is purely an opinion and has no basis in any officially legislated standards either in Australia or globally.
“A survey of major television manufacturer websites and promotional material will show a range of differing definitions of the term Full HD. Some manufacturers also have a different definition of the term Full HD depending on whether it is describing a Television or a camcorder.”
If this is the case one has to seriously raise the question as to why Hitachi is offering refunds. And why did they not stand up to Harvey Norman and refuse to refund customers on the basis that 1080i Full HD represented what Hitachi claims is the “Ultimate Full HD Experience”?
We would also like to know is why is Hitachi offering consumers $1,500 and demanding indemnity. Why are they offering full refunds? Why is Harvey Norman calling customers and offering to move them into 1080p 50-inch plasma TVs?
If you have a comment or would like to contribute to this story email the writer David Richards at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We appreciate your comments and feedback.
Only Hitachi and Harvey Norman have the full answers.