In a written statement issued yesterday, Elliott F. Kaye, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, urged retailers to stop selling self-balancing scooters—also known as hoverboards—until questions regarding product safety can be addressed. He also encouraged companies to follow Amazon’s lead in offering full refunds to customers concerned about fires and injuries linked to the product.
“As encouraged as I am by Amazon's actions,” Kaye wrote, “I expect other retailers and manufacturers of hoverboards to take action and offer a full refund now to their customers as well.”
Mounting Safety Questions
Before concluding his statement, the chairman shared details on the commission’s ongoing investigation into the design of hoverboards, which are produced by numerous manufacturers and have been tied to at least 39 fires in 19 states. “CPSC staff is focusing on the components of the lithium-ion battery packs as well as their interaction with the circuit boards inside the units,” he explained. In consultation with test laboratories, battery experts and others, the commission hopes to identify safe design practices that can be used to prevent overheating and combustion.
Due to reported spikes in emergency room visits, the CPSC is expanding its investigation to determine if hoverboard designs also present hidden risks to riders. “I am concerned, for example, that the current designs of these products might not take fully into consideration the different weights of different users, potentially leading to the units speeding up or lurching in a manner that a user would not have reason to anticipate,” Kaye wrote.
In our own tests with three models (a $400 Swagway X1, a $600 MonoRover R2, and an $830 Chic Smart S1), Consumer Reports determined that hoverboards, which change speed and direction based on pressure applied to footpads on either side of the board, may in fact be too responsive to shifts in weight distribution.
Safety Advice from the CPSC
While the commission's investigation continues, Kaye advises hoverboard owners to take the following precautions:
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy when charging or riding the product.
- Be sure to charge the unit in an open area, safely removed from combustible materials.
- Always wear protective gear, including a skateboard helmet and elbow, knee, and wrist guards, when riding the product.
- Do not ride a hoverboard on or near a road.
Once the CPSC's hoverboard investigation is complete, we'll provide a full report on the findings. In the meantime, visit our website for product safety updates.
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