More than 15,000 of the self-balancing scooters have been seized by trading standards officers at ports and airports around the UK since 15 October due to safety concerns*, the latest figures from National Trading Standards reveal.
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.
Six top tips have been created by National Trading Standards to help protects buyers and traders from faulty and dangerous goods (see below).
Cllr Nick Emmerson, Lead Councillor of Trading Standards at Sutton Council, said:
“Sutton’s Trading Standards is working hard this Christmas to protect residents from purchasing dangerous goods that could cause injury, a fire or even death. We urge residents to be very careful if tempted to buy a hoverboard from a retailer at a bargain price. They should check that it is fitted with the correct electrical plug and fuse for use in the UK, particularly if made abroad.
“As a minimum, consumers should check the three-pin plug on the device states that it is made to BS 1363. If it does not include this information, then do not buy the product.
“Retailers should also make the same checks to avoid selling substandard and potentially dangerous products from overseas.”
Should you already own one of these products or are purchasing for a loved one this Christmas, National Trading Standards has compiled the following top tips for consumers thinking of purchasing self-balancing scooters or “hoverboards”:
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. Do not panic buy from the first website you find – do your usual common-sense checks.
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 have bought has made you suspicious, report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.
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, click here.
Hoverboards are nicknamed after a fictional device depicted in the 1989 Hollywood film Back to the Future 2.
In the UK it is illegal to ride hoverboards on pavements or on roads and they can only be used on private land. They are banned under the Highways Act of 1835, which prohibits anyone from using the pavement to “wilfully lead or drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge, upon any such footpath or causeway”. Hoverboards are covered by the “carriage of any description” category.
National Trading Standards
National Trading Standards provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally.
The National Trading Standards Safety at Ports and Borders Teams work across 14 local authorities at ports, airports and postal hubs.
The National Trading Standards Board is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.