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New study warns of ‘life-threatening’ flaws in Kodi boxes

Popular internet TV boxes fail to comply with electrical safety regulations

Kodi boxes are attracting unwanted attention once again. This time it’s because they’ve been found to present a risk of serious injury to the user – including electric shock and fire.

A study collaboratively commissioned by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and Electrical Safety First found that nine of the UK’s most popular Kodi models failed to comply with the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994. The study didn’t name the guilty devices, but says that they all cost in the region of £30-£100.

Which? has been in contact with Electric Safety First for more information on the affected models, and will update this story in due course.

Steve Curtler, product safety manager at Electrical Safety First, said: ‘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.’

Fortunately there are plenty of safe, and legal ways to watch content online – and our Film Finder tool will also help you find the cheapest.

The dangers of dodgy streamers

While an organisation like FACT obviously has a vested interest in how the public perceives the legally dubious Kodi box, Electrical Safety First is a wholly independent organisation that campaigns on behalf of consumers and electrical trade professionals, to improve safety regulations.

The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 is a fairly exhaustive list of conditions that, for the last 23 years, has set the bar for electronics being sold in the UK. The failure on the boxes’ behalf to meet them means a malfunctioning model could cause a fire, leading to property damage or even death, and potentially fatal electric shocks.

International product safety tester UL came to the same conclusion in its own Kodi box test. It found near 100% non-conformity to European standards, agreeing that these non-conforming boxes can put consumers at serious risk of injury.

This isn’t the first we’ve heard of Kodi boxes not following the rules, either. In July of this year we reported that one model in particular – the OTT TV Box 4K – had been recommended for recall due to ‘poor quality design and construction’, which could lead to electrocution.

There are currently estimated to be over one million Kodi boxes in use in UK homes right now, with tens of thousands more expected to be purchased in the run-up to Christmas. Electrical Safety First has recommended that upon the purchase of any electrical device you carry out the following checks:

  • Take note of the manufacturer name, model and batch number – with many of these semi-legal set-top boxes there may not be a manufacturer name at all, which only adds to their illegitimacy
  • Check that there is a CE mark and that the voltage and current ratings match that of the supplied charger. If there’s no CE mark then it’s a real danger if left plugged in.
  • Take a look at the three-pin plug segment of the charger and pay attention to how easy it is to plug in. If there is not at least 9.5mm between the pins and the edge of the plug, or it’s awkward, then don’t use it.
  • Ensure that there’s an instruction manual with full safety guidelines. Another unfortunate trait of many cheap Kodi boxes is that there’s often no manual at all.

Internet TV box Best Buys – Which? recommended streamers offer an exceptional viewing experience without the risk of burning down your home

What is Kodi?

There’s still a fair bit of confusion surrounding exactly what Kodi, or a ‘Kodi box’. In brief, Kodi is home media centre software that can be installed on a range of devices, and allows you to play files, load apps and view streams and on-demand content. The trouble is, it can be easily hacked to offer unlimited free access to premium and subscription content – illegally, of course.

Just whether or not the viewer can be held legally responsible is still being worked out by the courts, but those caught retailing the boxes ‘fully loaded’ (that is to say, with all the illegal apps pre-installed) have been subjected to heavy fines.

This safety news merely adds to the argument that boxes advertised with Kodi installed are simply best avoided. If you want to use Kodi, buy a trusted internet TV box made by a name you know and then install it from there – any of the Amazon Fire devices, to name just one example, will support it. You can read all of our internet TV box reviews here.

If you want to learn more, click the link to read our comprehensive guide to Kodi.

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