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Consumers Force GPS Product Recall

Posted January. 25, 2006 03:00,   


Salesman Kim Seung-beom (24) bought a “Mio 138,” a car navigation device, in October 2004 made by the Taiwanese company MiTAC. He thought that it was inexpensive and had high performance.

However, his expectations turned to disappointment. The navigation device guided him in the wrong direction.

It directed him to go through a narrow street by going straight ahead, and guided him to re-enter a highway he just exited. One time, it told him to drive past his destination and around and around a nearby lake.

In the end, he joined an Internet discussion group called, “The Mio Users Gathering” which opened on the Internet portal site “Naver” late last year.

Consumer power-

The discussion group was founded in October 2005. At first, it was an association of like-minded persons for those who use the same product.

However, the members soon became familiar with the product’s shortcomings. It turned out that the problems were not confined to some of the products, the association turned into a pressure group.

The number of members grew fast. By last October, less than a month after the group opened, the number of members reached 1,000. It welcomed its 2,000th member on December 2, and grew to 6,952 as of January 24.

The group will expand its member ship even further after a planned joining with Daum Café’s “Mio 138 Navigation Gathering,” which has 23,000 members.

The group held a signature-collecting campaign claiming that the product’s defects should be repaired. In November 2005, they submitted a recall request to LG International, which imports and sells the product. LG International had already detected the flaws of the product and was considering a counterplan to deal with the situation. After receiving complaints, they began to take measures in earnest.

Kim Ho-kyu, in charge of Mio for LG International, said, “If our company conducted the test itself, it might have taken several months. However, our consumers did that on their own and figured out the problems for us in a short period of time.

Consumers are not easy to deceive these days-

LG International decided to replace the units with domestic products and told MiTAC about it last December.

MiTAC responded. Company executives flew to Korea to grasp the extent of the problems and promised to replace its defective products until February, saying that they cannot afford to lose the Korean market.

A MiTAC spokesperson explained, “There are about 15 million registered cars in Korea, and less than five percent of them have navigation systems. We judged that we could suffer a bigger loss if we neglected Korean netizens because the Korean market holds great promises for growth. That is why we accepted their claims.”

While members of the Mio users group welcomed MiTAC’s steps, they are also asking it to provide thorough follow-up management and additional after-sales service.

This incident is seen by some as an example of what would not have happened back when companies could monopolize product information. It also shows that consumers are hard to deceive these days because they are able to share organized, high-quality information through the Internet.

LG International sold 150,000 Mio GPS navigation systems made by MiTAC last year and is competing for the first place in portable navigation market share with Tinkware Co.’s Eye-Navi.

Seong-Yub Ra cpu@donga.com