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Customer Travails

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DQW Bureau
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Tucked in newspaper corners amidst the reports about the terror attacks on Indian Parliament was a small news item that referred to the US-led crackdown on pirated software products. The law enforcement authorities in the US had carried out a 27-city raid on software pirates and extended it to at least five other countries such as Britain, Australia, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

American efforts are aimed at crippling the activities of a Russian hacker's organization, Drinkordie. This organization gained notoriety when it cracked Microsoft's Windows code two weeks before its official release and making it available in the market. Media reports indicated that this was the largest and most extensive investigation of its kind to stifle the multi-billion dollar software piracy industry in the world.





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Interestingly, elsewhere in the DQ Week, we have reported in detail the difficulties faced by an IT customer to buy a kit of anti-virus software, sold in India by a top American company, through its vast network of resellers in the Chennai market.

Anyone who reads this report will agree that this is not the way to treat a customer who wants to buy a genuine software product. And this is also, perhaps, an indicator of the things that possibly drive potential customers into the hands of software pirates.

Many of them had to face the wrath of customers walking in with the copies of the advertisements. One or two resellers who were aware of the offer scheme were clearly buying time, claiming non-availability of stock. In the normal course, one would expect them to book the orders and make the product available at the discounted rate even at a later date, even past the offer period. It would have been a sure way to buy and retain customer loyalty. Or there was insistence on showing the original bill. In this case neither happened. In fact, one of the distributors whose name was mentioned in the advertisement turned away the customer saying it does not deal directly with the end-user.

Instead, the customer was turned away on the pretext that he would be eligible only if the earlier version of the same product was produced for exchange. This was contrary to the special offer. Many PC vendors sell their machines bundled with legal versions of software. How could such a PC buyer produce a separate bill for the software? The smart tags attached to it could easily verify genuineness of a software product. And what about many users who buy the software online that is easily available? Even here there is a problem. What one pays online is for a version installed directly on to the hard disk. To keep a copy of the software, one has to pay more. Despite mind boggling advances in computing technologies, crash of a PC system is quite common and it is not wise to take a chance without a copy of any software.

The industry has to be more pro active in handling customers. It is a credo valid at any time, any place. And it is even more critical in recession times. With what face can the industry ask for actions against software pirates and counterfeiters, if its actions turn away buyers of genuine software products to the doors of the underground market?

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