Warning to parents over “hover boards” after thousands seized over fears they could explode

One of the seized hoverboards.
One of the seized hoverboards.

Marty McFly lived the dream when he rode a hover board in the film Back to the Future…!

But parents are being warned to be extra careful when looking to get their hands on this year’s must-have Christmas gift with thousands of “hover boards” being seized by trading standards over concerns they could explode.

The self-balancing scooters - dubbed hover boards- have become a popular purchase this Christmas after well-known people including Brooklyn Beckham have been pictured riding them.

But to meet demand for the items, which don’t actually hover but roll on wheels, huge number of untested and potentially unsafe scooters have been imported into the UK.

Problems include the chargers and internal electrics which do not meet European or UK standards and come with inadequate instructions.

National Trading Standards (NTS) said 15,000 of the 17,000 self-balancing scooters examined since October 15 have been detained, mainly for having non-compliant electrical components which could explode or catch fire.

Many of the boards were found to have non-compliant plugs without fuses, which increase the risk of the device overheating, exploding or catching fire, and cut-off switches which failed when tested.

Chargers, cabling and batteries were also found to fail safety standards.

Many of the seized items carried apparently fake CE marking, and NTS advised that “unfortunately consumers cannot rely on the CE mark as an indication that a hoverboard is safe”.

Three house fires have been reported in recent weeks in Kent which it is understood were directly attributed to the boards overheating whilst being charged. The Crown Prosecution Service and Department for Transport have also stated that the scooters cannot be used legally in public places.

Nottinghamshire County Council’s Trading Standards team are urging parents to take care when purchasing the items.

Councillor Glynn Gilfoyle, Community Safety Committee Chairman, at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “The county council’s trading standards officers are working with trading standards colleagues across the UK to check these self-balancing scooters and prevent any from being supplied which cannot be shown to be safe and compliant with legislation.

“Unfortunately we can’t always keep up with those ordered on the internet so we would urge shoppers to be very careful when making such purchases. Also bear in mind the advice on legal use, they could prove to be both dangerous and disappointing presents.”

Consumers should check that the three pin plug on the device states it is made to BS 1363 and avoid buying it if this information is missing.

They should also:

• Never leave the device charging unattended, especially overnight. A faulty cut-off switch or plug without a fuse - seen in many of the seized boards - could lead to it overheating, exploding or catching fire.

• Check the shape of the plug. The first unsafe boards identified often had a clover-shaped plug.

• Check for online reviews that seem genuine and for information about the company’s head office and landline number. Sites that have spelling or grammar mistakes, including in the small print, can be an indication that it is not a professional operation.

• Never be dazzled by a bargain. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.

• Report any concerns to Citizens Advice on 03454 04 05 06.

And trading standards have issued the following advice when buying toys:

• Always buy from a reputable retailer, whether on-line or on the High Street

• When buying on-line always ensure the seller has a postal address and contact number so unsafe or faulty items can be reported and returned

• Always ensure on-line payments are secure

• If items cost over £100 consider paying by credit card, this gives extra protection

• When items arrive ensure they are “ce” marked and come with adequate instructions

• Any chargers should have UK standard plugs and should also be “ce” marked

• Never use chargers from other items, even if the fittings are the same, they may not be suitable and could cause a fire

If you have been targeted by a scam, you can report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506.