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Belgian retailers targeted

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Almost 25 per cent of Belgian PC retail shops encourage users to buy illicit software, according to research by Bare Associates. As part of its ongoing effort to stamp out the use of pirated software, Microsoft paid Bare to send secret investigators or "mystery shoppers" to 400 computer retailers in Belgium.

About 17 per cent of the retailers encouraged users to purchase such software, while 8 per cent of the resellers provided instructions on where to get it. None of the dealers installed unauthorised versions of software on computers themselves - a practice known as hard-disk loading.

Microsoft says that the mystery shoppers will revisit the retailers next month, but warned that this time they could face legal action.

Microsoft has deployed mystery shoppers before to monitor resellers suspected of selling or promoting illegal software. Microsoft also sends thousands of warning letters each year to alert computer resellers and equipment builders and get them to stop selling unlicensed or pirated Microsoft software. ®

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