Will you get in trouble for using someone else’s Netflix account?
The shift to digital entertainment in the last few years has been huge. Six in ten adults now watch on-demand services such as iPlayer and Netflix according to Ofcom.
The problem is, all these subscriptions can be pricey, especially when you factor in media services you’re already paying for like the TV Licence or your Sky TV package.
So, many of us do something a little cheeky to lower the costs. We share our accounts with friends and family. If you don’t do it yourself, chances are you know someone who does.
But should you be sharing your passwords – and is it safe? I’ve delved into the terms and conditions to find out what they say about letting others use your digital accounts, and looked at just who you can share with.
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Is sharing your accounts allowed?
For most, the answer is yes, but within the family or household. The CEO of Netflix went as far as to say kids at college using the family account was fine, though recently said they might look at how to limit this in a “consumer-friendly way”
In fact, all the main digital streaming services allow multiple users and watching or listening on multiple devices – though you often have to pay extra to make this work practically. If there are a few of you in your home with varying tastes, it may well be worth shelling out so you can watch or listen to what you want in peace.
Sharing your account with people further than your front door is a different matter. Many explicitly say you should not give your account details to anyone outside your household, though there’s very little in the Ts&Cs for each of the services that breaks down what would happen to you if they found out. What is clear is that the main account holder is responsible for any use or misuse of the service.
Is sharing your account a good idea?
Of course, we all do it. But I bet most people don’t consider what this actually means for our viewing and out budgets.
It could put your data at risk
I’d urge you to think twice before handing out your sign in details. If you give your username, often your email address, and password to a friend or family member – no matter how much you trust them – it’s out of your control.
It’s unlikely they’ll be able to see your card details as these are generally encrypted, but they could make additional purchases or change your subscription package. They may also share your log in details with further friends and family, making it near impossible to track who has done what.
The risk could even go beyond the account you share. Though we all know it’s best practice to have different passwords for all our digital accounts, the likelihood is there will at the very best be some similarity to others you use. At worst, it’s the same for everything. This opens up the risk of fraud, theft, and locking you out of your own accounts.
Even if the horse has already bolted from this open gate, you can change your passwords on the accounts you’ve shared, locking out anyone outside your household – though bear in mind you may also have to change details for all those other accounts too.
It might not save you money
Yes, if you are using someone else’s account you’re saving cash. But what if you’re the one who is paying and letting others have access? Plus, sharing could tempt you to have more subscriptions that you actually need. (I think it’s impossible to get the most out of more that one or two services each month).
You need to make sure that if people are splitting the payment with you that they actually pay. Or more practically you could each pay for one service so it cancels out.
But the wider the details are shared the harder it’ll be to know who is using what and who is contributing.
It might prevent you watching when you want
This is one of the biggest downsides to sharing your password. Even if you are fine with letting others have access to your account, it’s not necessarily as simple as everyone watching what they want and when.
The services all have limits on the number of simultaneous streams and many also have limits on devices you can use.
For example, say only two can only watch at the same time. Add in a third person and you’ll get that dreaded error screen. Cue frantic messaging to find out who is watching and if they can stop.
Or if you want to be able to watch on your main TV, your bedroom TV and two phones in the house it could mean anyone you share with is limited to just one or two devices.
These aren’t necessarily a problem if you’re not paying. But if you are contributing part of the fee or paying for a different shared service you’d rightly be pissed off if you can’t watch what you want to watch when you want to watch it.
Sharing your streaming password – service by service
So what are you allowed to do? With the above points in mind, here’s what you can share – and possibly shouldn’t do – subscription by subscription.
Netflix is pro-sharing your account, but only within your household and Ts&Cs require that users “should not reveal the password… to anyone”. But it’s not done anything to stop people – even though it has the geo-tracking data that could let them crackdown.
How many people can watch at the same time depends on how much you pay. The basic £5.99 a month subscription is limited to one screen, but for £8.99 (and HD) two people can watch different programmes on different devices simultaneously, while that goes up to four people (and 4K) for £11.99 a month. Anyone you share with uses the same log in as you.
Amazon Prime Video
You’re limited to three simultaneous streams on Amazon Prime Video, and you can only watch the same title on two devices at the same time. You can now create up to six different profiles for people on the account.
Strictly speaking though this is still limited to the account holder. The official way to share Amazon Prime is to set-up Amazon Household where a maximum of two adult accounts are connected.
The big problem with both the official and unofficial sharing methods is that you are sharing your full Amazon account. That means anyone you share with could shop at your expense.
Personally, I’d only share Amazon with people you really trust, like your parents.
NOW TV will allow two users to watch programmes at the same time, and only six devices can be used in a month. You can swap one every month. You can boost to an additional simultaneous stream via the Boost package which costs £3 extra a month (you also get full HD).
Responsibility for the account sits with the account holder, so if your friend adds a month of Sky Sports for £33 you’ll have to get them to pay up rather than complain to NOW TV.
The log in can also be used to access your Sky account (you’ll have one if you have NOW TV, even if you weren’t aware), where further purchases can be made.
Services are pretty cheap though compared to full Sky or Virgin packages and switching over can save you a fortune – especially if you share!
You can stream on four devices at once and have seven separate profiles, making it very easy to share with others. You can also download to 10 different devices.
In fact, in the subscriber agreement (1.b) it says that if you share your account details with others they are subject to the same terms and conditions. Which is another way of saying it’s ok to share.
Apple TV +
Apple TV+ allows six simultaneous streams, though there’s no facility to create individual profiles. Plus this uses your Apple ID and password – not a good one to share seeing as it can be used for purchases and access to other Apple devices.
You can though add five other accounts to your apple “Family Sharing” which will give access to a number of Apple features.
By default this includes iCloud storage and purchases on the app store (and more). You can stop these extras being shared, but you can only toggle these on and off for everyone you share with.
If you have Sky TV, you’ve also got access to Sky Go which allows you to stream your channels on up to six devices. But it’s only one stream at a time for customers since March 2021. Older customers can watch two at once.
If you want to download programmes iPlayer style and stream on two devices at once you can upgrade to Sky Go Extra for £5 a month, which also allows you to watch on up to four devices.
You can create additional users for your household, so you would be able to limit the access to your account by providing a Secondary Sky ID.
Virgin TV Go
Virgin’s TV Go is available on your computer, tablet or phone. You need to register which ones will use it, and there’s a limit of four, though you can change three every month. There’s a max of two simultaneous streams, though it’s limited to one if it’s for a Sky channel.
Unlike the others, Virgin are very clear in their terms you must not let anyone else use your log in, and that they may “restrict or remove your access to the Service” if they believe someone else is using your sign-in details.
BT Sport & BT TV
You can watch BT Sport – and any other channels you receive as part of BT TV – on two devices at the same time.
However, BT are firm the service is for members of your household and require the account holder to “do everything you can to keep your BT ID username and password secure and confidential and prevent anyone else from using them”.
Should you use “sharing services”
I’ve seen a handful of streaming sharing services pop up recently. With these you pay a third party every month for access to a service. They’ll provide you with a log-in, but they’ll also give the same details to someone else.
In theory this protect your payment card and other details as they won’t be on the shared account – but they will still be held by the facilitating website.
Personally I’d stay clear. These are very new so it’s impossible to vouch for any of these providers (hence why I’m not listing them). In fact one that was brought to my attention last week has already had its website suspended!
If you want to share you will most likely know someone who wants to split costs, and I think that’s a better option – as long as you follow the rules I’ve set out above.
Of course this could change, so I’ll keep an eye on these services and write more if so.
Stopping someone using your account
If you no longer want to share with someone, or are worried that someone you haven’t authorised to use your account is doing so, then there are ways to get control back.
To do this you simply change your password. You’ll have to sign in on all your accounts again, as will anyone you still want to share with.
You can also sign out on all devices with some of the services. This is handy if you’ve signed in on another TV (on holiday perhaps) and forgotten to sign out.
Spending less on TV & movie streaming services
Sharing accounts isn’t the only way to pay less for your subscription. You can take out free trials, buy cheap passes and mix and match the ones you use to save some money. Here’s my deals page with the latest offers.