Blow to looters as Samsung remotely switches off stolen TV sets


Electronics giant Samsung has “blocked” TVs that were stolen in South Africa during the unrest in July, rendering them unusable.

The company says it has an inbuilt “block function” on its TVs that can be used to remotely disable the sets.

The function is activated when a user of a stolen TV or one that has been acquired unlawfully connects to the internet, according to Samsung.

The system checks the identified TV’s serial number against the list on its servers before disabling its functionality.

South Africa had weeks of violent protests and looting last month that left more than 300 people dead and property worth billions of rands ransacked.

Some of the reportedly popular items that were stolen were smart TVs.

The ability to remotely disable TV function has received some praise among online users for its potential use to deter crime, with some also noting its potential for abuse.

One person noted that Samsung was taking “electronic revenge” on looters of its TV sets while another said it was more reason “never to connect a TV set to the internet”

Samsung South Africa announced the implementation of a Television Block Function on all its TV sets. 

The blocking system is intended to be implemented in respect of televisions that have been obtained by users through unlawful means and in some cases, stolen from the Samsung warehouses. 

TV Block is a remote, security solution that detects if Samsung TV units have been unduly activated, and ensures that the television sets can only be used by the rightful owners with a valid proof of purchase. 

The aim of the technology is to mitigate against the creation of secondary markets linked to the sale of illegal goods, both in South Africa and beyond its borders. This technology is already pre-loaded on all Samsung TV products.


“In keeping with our values to leverage the power of technology to resolve societal challenges, we will continuously develop and expand strategic products in our consumer electronics division with defence-grade security, purpose-built, with innovative and intuitive business tools designed for a new world. 

This technology can have a positive impact at this time, and will also be of use to both the industry and customers in the future, “said Mike Van Lier, Director of Consumer Electronics at Samsung South Africa.

Samsung is committed to re-opening businesses and minimising the loss of jobs, in line with the plea to #RebuildSouthAfrica. 

With this in mind, Samsung has activated TV Block on all Samsung television sets looted from our Cato Ridge distribution centre in KZN since the 11th of July 2021. Samsung Television Block works as follows:

A TV blocking system has been activated on Samsung television sets stolen from our warehouse.

The blocking will come into effect when the user of a stolen television connects to the internet, in order to operate the television.

Once connected, the serial number of the television is identified on the Samsung server and the blocking system is implemented, disabling all the television functions should a customer’s TV be incorrectly blocked, the functionality can be reinstated once proof of purchase and a valid TV license is shared to served.

“As an organisation we acknowledge the critical role in giving our customers and client the peace of mind. Working together, we can overcome the impact of the unprecedented disruption to business, as experienced by many of us recently. We will continue to review the situation and will make adjustments as necessary to ensure business continuity for all, “ Van Lier said.

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