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Comet sued by Microsoft for selling "counterfeit" recovery discs

Alleges chain sold 94,000 sets

Microsoft has heaped more misery on stressed technology UK tech chain Comet, announcing that it is suing the company for allegedly selling bogus Windows XP and Vista recovery CDs to tens of thousands of customers.

According to a complaint filed on 4 January, Comet created 94,000 "counterfeit" operating system images in a factory in Hampshire which were then sold on for unspecified sums.

"Comet produced and sold thousands of counterfeit Windows CDs to unsuspecting customers in the United Kingdom," said Microsoft's Worldwide Anti-Piracy and Anti-Counterfeiting legal counsel, David Finn.

"Comet's actions were unfair to customers. We expect better from retailers of Microsoft products and our customers deserve better, too," he added.

The unexplained element to the story is why customers felt it necessary to buy recovery discs from Comet in the first place.

Windows Vista would have shipped with a utility to create such a disc using a few DVDs from Service Pack 1 (SP1) onwards, before which most PC vendors installed their own utility to perform the same task. Windows XP was small enough to fit on recovery CDs and, later, DVDs but vendors often supplied utilities as additional support as disc sets became less common.

The main circumstance in which a customer might eventually consider buying a new image would be where the originals have dated as service packs and patches pile up, usually years after a particular version of Windows is released.

These can be bought direct from Microsoft for a few pounds and are a hugely time-saving investment should the system need to be re-installed from scratch.

It is possible that the sales mentioned by Microsoft date from some time in the past, but the legal action is the last thing Comet needs right now.

A feature of the UK high street for an astonishing 80 years, the company's anglo-French parent company Kesa announced plans last November to "sell" the chain to OpCapita for a token £2 price tag plus a £50 million inducement to cover pension liabilities. Sales plummeted in 2011 despite investment to smarten up many stores.

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