Walk through Croydon town centre and you’re almost guaranteed to see people riding or selling them.
Variously called hoverboards, airboards, self-balancing scooters or smart-balance wheels, the small, futuristic one-man travel devices are growing in popularity and are likely to be on many Christmas wish lists.
Croydon’s trading standards team, however, is warning would-be purchasers to think twice and, if set on buying one, be sure they buy only from a reputable retailer before handing over cash for something that could be a serious fire hazard.
London Fire Brigade reports that two men had to escape through a first-floor window from a fire at a house in Morden, after a ‘banging’ noise alerted them to a blaze in a room where a hoverboard had been charging. A major concern is that the lithium-ion batteries used to power these devices can short-circuit or overheat, especially if overcharged, and explode – causing a fast-burning fire that can be very difficult to put out.
More than 88% of boards sampled have failed safety testing, with as many as 12,000 being seized at UK ports of entry as a result. Trading standards teams across the UK are warning that anybody considering buying one should think again.
The products being intercepted have a significant range of safety issues including the plug, the cabling, the charger, the battery and the cut-off switch in the board itself.
Not all of these safety risks can be identified by a visual assessment; laboratory testing is required to identify and assess a cut-off switch, for example.
Additionally, many products lack any name or contact details of the manufacturer or importer on either the board itself or its charger, and any accompanying instructions are often not written in comprehensible English. Some boards have been found containing fake lithium-ion batteries, as well as fake safety markings on the boards and plugs.
“It’s likely that many will be considering buying one of these boards for somebody at Christmas – the advice has to be that this is one craze to be avoided.
“In addition to the safety concerns is the fact that hoverboards can’t be legally used on roads or pavements; they can be used only on private property. However, if you must have one, make sure you buy it from a respected high-street or online store.”