Consumer alert issued on hoverboards

Google images A ruined hoverboard
Google images
A ruined hoverboard

This holiday season’s hottest gift item turned out to be literally that – reportedly having a tendency to explode into flames.

We are, of course, talking about hoverboards. Last week, the N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs was talking about them, too, issuing a consumer alert and noting that the boards are being investigated by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for potential fire hazards.

The CPSC launched its probe amid nationwide reports that the self-balancing, wheeled scooters have exploded in flames while in use or during the battery-charging process. Two of those reported fires occurred in New Jersey.

“While there is no conclusive evidence that hoverboards are defective or inherently unsafe, we want consumers to be aware of the potential dangers and take precautions to keep themselves and their children safe,” said Steve Lee, acting director of the state Division of Consumer Affairs.

“We will monitor the CPSC investigation and keep consumers updated on any findings,” Lee noted.

In a statement on the agency website, the CPSC announced it is working “non-stop” to find the root cause of the fire hazard, assess how much risk it might present and provide consumers with answers.

According to the website, CPSC engineers are testing new and damaged boards to determine why some models caught fire. Experts also are looking at the configuration of the battery packs and compatibility with the chargers.

The CPSC offered the following advice to reduce the risks:

• Avoid buying a hoverboard at a location (like a mall kiosk) or on a website that does not have information about who is selling the product and how they can be contacted if there is a problem. If you do not think you could find the seller again were a problem to arise with your board, steer clear of doing business with them.

• Do not charge a hoverboard overnight or when you are not able to observe the board.

• Charge it and store it in an open, dry area away from items that can catch fire.

• Do not charge immediately after riding. Let the device cool for an hour before charging.

• If giving a hoverboard as a gift, leave it in its partially charged state. Do not take it out of the package to bring it to a full charge and then wrap it back up.

Often, the product comes partially charged. Leave it in that state until it is ready to be used.

• Look for the mark of a certified national testing laboratory. While this does not rule out counterfeits, the absence of such a mark means your safety is likely not a priority for that manufacturer.

• Do not ride the hoverboard near any vehicular traffic.

That last tip involves not only potential fire dangers, but general hoverboard safety. Users have demonstrated a tendency to fall off the boards, or crash into things. According to published reports, one Bergen County ER dealt with 14 hoverboard-related injuries on Christmas Day alone.

“As with any scooter, skateboard, or wheeled toy, it’s important to wear a proper helmet and protective padding [knee and elbow pads and wrist guards] while riding a hoverboard to avoid serious injury,” Lee said.

The CPSC is urging consumers to report incidents involving hoverboards to the agency via

– Karen Zautyk 

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