Warning: Illegal streaming boxes are a fire hazard

17 Nov 2017

Image: Zastolskiy Victor/Shutterstock

None of the most popular illegal streaming devices meet UK fire safety standards.

Illegal streaming devices that enable users to watch movies and box sets on their TVs free of charge pose a potential fire hazard.

That’s the warning from Electrical Safety First and intellectual property body FACT, which examined the electrical safety of a number of these devices.

The Intellectual Property Office estimates that more than 1m of these illegal devices have been sold in the UK alone in the last two years, representing a major fire hazard.

None of the illicit streaming devices that were tested had been supplied, designed or manufactured in accordance with the principal elements of the safety objectives outlined in Schedule 1 of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994.

A very dangerous Christmas present?

A number of sellers of these boxes have recently been sentenced and, in April, the European Court of Justice ruled that using one of these devices to watch or stream copyrighted content is breaking the law.

“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,” warned Steve Curtler, product safety manager at Electrical Safety First.

“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.”

In June, the EU issued a recall notice for the OTT TV Box 4K, a Chinese-made ‘Kodi box’, due to a serious risk of electric shock, calling for owners of the box to stop using it immediately.

The devices in question had faulty power supply units, which didn’t comply with Europe’s Low Voltage Directive, meaning users were at risk from touching live components.

Consumers have been warned to be on the lookout for these streaming devices and to make sure there is a CE mark and that the output voltage and current markings match.

They must also ensure that the pin plugs plug in easily to the socket and that there is at least 9.5mm between the edge of the pins and the edge of the charger.

“The fact that so many illegal streaming devices have all failed to meet UK safety standards is shocking,” warned Kieron Sharp, 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.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years