THOUSANDS OF UNSAFE ‘HOVERBOARDS’ DETAINED IN UK OVER PAST SEVEN WEEKS
- Latest figures reveal more than 15,000 self-balancing scooters detained at UK points of entry
- Major safety risks identified include issues with the plug, cabling, charger, battery or cut-off switch
More than 17,000 self-balancing scooters – or ‘hoverboards’– have been examined at UK points of entry since 15th October due to safety concerns. Of these, over 15,000 (or 88%) have been assessed as unsafe and have been detained at the border. There has been a huge spike in the number of these items arriving in recent weeks, destined to end up as gifts under the tree this Christmas.
Trading Standards authorities have detained the boards – a ‘must-have’ on Christmas lists this year – due to a range of concerns, such as safety issues with the plug, cabling, charger, battery or the cut-off switch within the board, which often fails. Many of the items detained and sent for testing have been found to have non-compliant plugs without fuses, which increases the risk of the device overheating, exploding or catching fire.
Products that have been tested have failed with significant safety issues and over 15,000 products detained have identical or very similar features to those already deemed as unsafe. 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 the OFT is urging consumers to be vigilant this Christmas and avoid putting households at risk with unsafe products.
Whether you already own one of these products or are considering purchasing one this Christmas, the OFT is offering the following top tips:-
- 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.
- 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.
- If buying online, look closely at the website before you hit the ‘buy’ button:
- Try searching for reviews of the product or the seller – do these seem genuine?
- Are there lots of spelling or grammar mistakes on the site? This can be a clue that a business is not professionally run.
- See if you can find out where the company’s head office is based – and whether that fits with how the website presents itself.
- 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.
- Read the small print – notice if anything seems odd, repetitive or in incorrect English.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. • 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.
Criminals and irresponsible manufacturers will often exploit high demand and attempt to flood the market with cheap and dangerous products.
Consumers should not let a new fashion or craze cloud their judgement and remain vigilant at all times, to avoid taking home an unsafe product.
Some products that are made abroad are not fitted with the correct plug and fuse for use in the UK.
A spokesperson for Trading Standards in the UK has advised:
As a minimum consumers should check that the three pin plug on the device states it is made to BS 1363. If it doesn’t include this information, then don’t buy the product.”
John Peet, Chief Inspector of Trading Standards at the OFT, said:
“The authorities in the UK have taken appropriate action to prevent thousands of unsafe ‘hoverboards’ entering the marketplace but consumers can also play their part by following the advice offered above. We are aware of ‘hoverboards’ being offered for sale via local social media sites. Our advice is not to purchase goods from such sites unless you know for certain who the seller is. With regard to enforcement, traceability is the key. If you know who you purchased goods from it makes it easier for us to establish who is in the supply chain.
Whilst the advice offered above applies to ‘hoverboards’, it could equally apply to other electrical products and accessories. For example, there have been problems with chargers for mobile phones and e-cigarettes. Consumers should only purchase electrical products and accessories from reputable sources to avoid the risk of buying counterfeit and potentially dangerous products. Genuine electrical products and accessories will generally be packaged with safety instructions. Check any text on the packaging or on the items themselves for misspellings. What looks like a bargain could actually be a potential death trap.
Anyone who thinks they have purchased counterfeit or potentially dangerous electrical products or electrical accessories should report the matter to the OFT without delay.
With regard to the safety concerns surrounding ‘hoverboards’, enforcement officers are visiting local retailers to carry out checks.”