“Kodi box” users are being urged to unplug the devices immediately.
A product safety assessment commissioned by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) has found that several popular illicit streaming device models suffer from potentially life-threatening flaws.
People who continue to use them are risking serious injury through electrocution or the outbreak of a fire, experts have warned.
Electrical Safety First has tested nine “popular” Kodi boxes that were taken from a number of raids across the UK, and none of them complied with the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994.
“Given the nature of the safety issues we found, [the worst case result of one of the devices malfunctioning] would be for a fire to break out, causing severe property damage and even fatalities, and of course fatalities from electric shock,” Steve Curtler, product safety manager at Electrical Safety First, told the Independent.
The Intellectual Property Office estimates that more than one million illicit streaming devices, which tend to be cheap, unbranded media players that are pre-loaded with legal Kodi software and illegal pirate addons that let you stream films, TV shows and live sports for free, have been sold in the UK in the last two years.
Electrical Safety First hasn’t named the devices involved in the test, but says they “typically range from around £30-£100”.
“This year consumers thinking about buying an illegal streaming device for Christmas need to know that by plugging them into their TV they could be potentially be putting themselves, their home and their family at risk,” said Mr Curtler.
“We urge anyone with one of these devices to unplug it and stop using it immediately. Not only are these devices breaking the law, but they could be putting your loved ones at risk.”
Electrical Safety First says there’s no guarantee that any unbranded electrical device will be safe to use, but the organisation recommends carrying out the following checks:
- Look out for the manufacturer’s brand name or logo, model and batch mark number
- Check that there is a CE mark, and that the output voltage and current ratings marked on the charge match your electrical device
- Check that the pin plugs slot into the socket easily, and that there is at least 9.5mm between the edge of the pins and the edge of the charger
- Ensure it comes with all the necessary instructions for use and adequate warnings
UL, a safety organisation, has carried out a separate European-level assessment of “questionable” TV set-top boxes and streaming devices.
“The test-results found near 100 per cent non-conformity to European standards,” Marcello Manca, UL’s vice president of government and industry affairs, told the Independent.
“The presence of such non-compliant products on the market can lead to unfair advantages for rogue operators who are not investing in the safety of their products and can put consumers at risk of serious injury.”
According to a recent report, significant numbers of criminals are importing cheap media players, modifying them at home and selling them on in the UK.
The EU issued a recall notice for the OTT TV Box 4K Kodi box due to a serious risk of electric shock in June, and a raid in Westminster in July found more than 40 illegal streaming devices that posed a potential risk of electrocution or fire.
“The fact that so many illegal streaming devices have all failed to meet UK safety standards is shocking,” said Kieron Sharp, the director general of FACT.
“Alongside the risks of exposing your home network to damaging malware and your children to inappropriate content, it should now be clear that the dangers these illegal devices pose far outweigh any benefit of buying them.
“We believe hundreds of thousands of illicit streaming devices were sold between Black Friday and Christmas last year. This year, if you want to safely and reliably enjoy premium sports, TV or films go directly to the official provider.”
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