eBay cracks down on counterfeit Microsoft software

eBayers selling hooky Microsoft products have been pushed off the UK auction site in a recent crack-down.

Between August and October, some 21,000 auctions of Microsoft software were targeted, with Windows XP and Office the main products under suspicion.

And the campaign had a dramatic effect: August saw eBay removing more than 11,000 articles for sale; by October this had dropped to around 5,000.

The initiative involves both companies through eBay’s Verified Rights Owners programme (VeRO). Michala Alexander, Microsoft’s head of antipiracy in the UK, told us that the company has a team positioned at Microsoft UK, constantly monitoring activities, running searches and checking what’s going on.

She said that at times this calls for contacting the seller to determine more about the item, and for particularly good counterfeits, the seller may not even know that the goods aren’t right.

But this is not so common. ‘Around 60 per cent are just CD-Rs,’ she told us. Others are OEM discs and she said she had seen Microsoft products on eBay where the photographed disc has ‘Not for Resale’ clearly stamped all over it.

But if the products are so obviously discs burned with counterfeit software, half the problem rests with those buying them. Alexander said that Microsoft had embarked on an educational initiative to highlight the benefits of having genuine software and recommends going through certified resellers rather than risking dealing with unknown traders on eBay.

However, for those that are thinking of buying a Microsoft product on eBay, or other auction or e-commerce sites, then they can use Microsoft’s HowToTell site as an aid to check for authenticity.

As for the rogue eBayers, it looks like Microsoft will be burdened with manning its monitoring division for some time to come. ‘We’re seeing 250 items each day on eBay,’ said Alexander, so there’s still some way to go. ‘We’re following up on all of the leads coming into us,’ she said.

eBay operates a three strikes and you’re out policy on those that continue selling hooky goods on its service. But Microsoft is also looking into legal routes to deal with traders that continue to pursue this practice.

Alexander said the company was also monitoring other online auction sites with the same tenacity, but she says the benefit is that you are more likely to find genuine software on such sites as a result of Microsoft’s efforts.

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