Christmas shoppers warned about unsafe hoverboards

Consumers are being urged to think before buying this year’s ‘must have’ for Christmas, a hoverboard, which could be at risk of catching fire or even exploding.

Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service is appealing to Christmas shoppers to follow a 12-point safety checklist (below) if they are thinking of buying a hoverboard or have already purchased one.

Since October 15 more than 17,000 self-balancing scooters – or ‘hoverboards’– have been tested at national entry points due to safety concerns.

Of these, over 15,000 (88 per cent) were found to have significant safety issues and were detained at the border by officers from National Trading Standards Safety at Ports & Borders Teams.

Safety concerns include problems with the plug, cabling, charger, battery and the cut-off switch within the board, which often fails.

Many of the items were tested and found to have noncompliant plugs without fuses, which increases the risk of the device overheating, catching fire or even exploding.

Officers at UK ports and borders have seen a huge spike in the number of these items arriving in recent weeks, destined to end up as gifts under the tree this Christmas.

With such large numbers being sent for testing since October many testing houses are full to capacity and additional staff training is underway to help meet the demand.

In recent months these faults have caused extensive damage to people’s property and National Trading Standards – in conjunction with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute – is urging consumers to be vigilant this Christmas and avoid putting households at risk with unsafe products.

Councillor David Hall Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for Devon and Somerset Trading Standards, said: “Our Trading Standards officers in Devon and Somerset are not aware of any distributors of hoverboards in this area and enquiries are being made to identify any retail suppliers of these products.

“However, it is important that anyone in possession of one of these products, or considering buying one, follows the advice provided by National Trading Standards”

Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:

“Our teams at sea ports, postal hubs and airports are working around-the-clock to prevent dangerous items from entering the supply chain. Protecting consumers from harm is our top priority and our Safety at Ports and Borders teams are preventing thousands of these unsafe items from being released onto the market every day.

“We suspect that most of these products are being imported for onward sale domestically as Christmas approaches – we urge consumers to be on their guard when purchasing these products and advise you read our product safety checklist to help ensure you are not purchasing a dangerous item.”

“If you do suspect any sellers, websites or products of being unsafe we urge you to report them to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.”

Safety checklist:

Never leave the device charging unattended – especially overnight: a faulty cut-off switch (designed to stop the battery from continuing to charge once fully charged) or a plug without a fuse, as seen in many products detained so far, could lead to the device overheating, exploding or catching fire.

  1. Check the device: things to look out for include the shape of the plug – the first unsafe products identified often had a clover-shaped plug. Also check the device for markings or traceable information, such as the name and contact details of the manufacturer and / or importer.
  2. If buying online, look closely at the website before you hit the ‘buy’ button
  3. Try searching for reviews of the product or the seller – do these seem genuine?
  4. Are there lots of spelling or grammar mistakes on the site? This can be a clue that a business is not professionally run.
  5. See if you can find out where the company’s head office is based – and whether that fits with how the website presents itself.
  6. Do they have a landline number you can call if there are any problems? Bear in mind that if the company is based abroad, it can be more difficult to get a complaint dealt with or return a faulty product.
  7. Read the small print – notice if anything seems odd, repetitive or in incorrect English.
  8. Is there an ‘s’ at the end of the ‘http’ part of the web address, or is there a padlock symbol in the task bar? This means the website is using an encrypted system that keeps your details more secure.
  9. Don’t be dazzled by a bargain: Are the prices incredibly low? If they look too good to be true, they probably are – particularly if some of your other checks have put doubts in your mind.
  10.  Be aware that criminals exploit high demand: When items like self-balancing scooters start to sell out at well-known retailers, the void is quickly filled by crooks churning out poor quality imitations that can put people in danger. Don’t ‘panic buy’ from the first website you find – do your usual common-sense checks.
  11.  Report it: National Trading Standards needs your help to clamp down on unsafe products from abroad. If you believe that any online or face-to-face seller is selling potentially dangerous goods, or something you’ve bought has made you suspicious, report it to Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.
  12.  Buying online for onward sale online? If you do this you are assuming the legal responsibilities of a business to ensure that what you’re selling complies with product safety and intellectual property legislation. For information about this visit https://www.gov.uk/starting-to-import.