Hundreds of consumers who during the last 12 months have forked out thousands to purchase a Hitachi flat screen TV or a Hitachi camcorder are set to face a rude awakening – the brand and the entire consumer electronics sales and marketing operation is set to disappear within days.
So far Hitachi has failed to advise SmartHouse on the implications for consumers or the market. The news comes only weeks after we exclusively revealed that the company was in trouble after they were forced to offer thousands in rebates to Harvey Norman consumers who purchased an Hitachi 50″ plasma TV believing it to be a Full HD 1080p TV when in fact they were only 1080i.
Late last year Hitachi was forced by Harvey Norman to refund customers who were upset that they were sold an Hitachi 1080i plasma under the guise of a superior 1080p model due to what we claimed was misleading advertising by Hitachi.
The Japanese company told customers that they would receive a full refund for the TV if they contact their local Harvey Norman store – but neither Hitachi nor the retailer advertised this fact. However SmartHouse did discover that Harvey Norman were calling Hitachi customers and offering them a deal to move into another brand at the expense of Hitachi.
At the time SmartHouse was contacted by several disgruntled consumers who bought a 50-inch Hitachi 1080i plasma that was advertised as ‘Full HD who now are demanding a refund.
What is not known is how much this disaster cost Hitachi. When SmartHouse first broke this story in October 2007 we were told that Hitachi Australia was trading in profit and that the move to LCD and thin screens in 2008 was set to boost the company’s fortunes.
The decision by Hitachi to shut up shop in Australia has been tipped by SmartHouse for several months. In a company letter to Hitachi retailers Hitachi said “As you are no doubt now aware, Hitachi has decided to withdraw from the Australian consumer electronics market. This decision is part of a refocusing of Hitachi’s sales strategy for consumer electronic products throughout the world,” said Hitachi Australia managing director, Yutaka Sugihara.
“As a result, Hitachi Australia Pty Ltd (HAUL) will cease sale of consumer electronics products in Australia by 29 February 2008. HAUL’s rebate and trading term agreements with you company and all of corporate group/trading group members will terminate with effect from this date.”
Hitachi reported losses of over $400 million from its plasma TV operations for the six months ended 30 September 2007, and has been struggling in the market since.
It is not clear at this stage the impact the loss of the Australian business will have on the Japanese company’s other operations.