Among the recalls in the US and UK, Australian retailer Big W has now also jumped onto the faulty board bandwagon. Why? Hundreds of hoverboards sold at Big W stores pose an electric shock risk.
Hoverboards, also known as self-balancing scooters, are electrical two-wheeled ride-on devices that are expected to be a popular gift this Christmas. Prices for hoverboards range from around $200 up to $2400. The speed and steering of the hoverboard are controlled by subtle shifts of the rider’s weight.
Unlike some of the other Hoverboard recalls due to lithium-ion battery explosions, the Moonwalker 750 got to Big W shelves with unapproved power cords and battery chargers. Neither the cord nor the charger complies with current Australian safety standards, making the boards serious safety issues.
Unless you’ve managed to stay clear of the TV, Internet, radio and all other people, chances are that you’ve seen a hoverboard. Yes, the name is somewhat misleading. We’re not talking ‘Back to the Future’ flying skateboards here. These are more of a steering column-less battery-powered scooter (in other words, they don’t actually hover). But, with the future-forward catchy name and the fun that should ensue, these boards seemed to have made their way into every little (and big) boys’ girls’ holiday wishes.
So, let’s say that your child, husband, brother, mum, sister, auntie or BFF is begging for a hoverboard. What do you need to know? According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), you need to look for the Australian Regulatory Compliance (RCM) symbol. This lets you know that the board has met minimum safety standards when it comes to electrical requirements. This also includes the battery charging device as well. When the charger isn’t RCM compliant, the battery can overheat and cause a fire (or up the risk of electric shock, as seen in the Big W board case).
Even though starting with regulatory compliance is a first step, the tiny little symbol might not completely ensure your safety. Not to be alarmist, but there are plenty of companies voluntarily recalling or banning the sale of hoverboards. The ACCC maintains a list of up-to-date recalls that you should check out before buying a board. The ACCC also lists products that have been permanently banned. There are no current boards on the list, but that isn’t to say they won’t ever make their way there.
Some carry warnings about overcharging, so you’ll want to keep in mind that you can’t just leave them plugged into the wall socket. Many of those exploding or catching fire has been while plugged in and recharging (or overcharging) so keep an eye on them and unplug as soon as they are fully charged.
Who’s banning or refusing to sell hoverboards? You walk into a store or browse online, only to find that the board of your choice isn’t available. It’s not sold out and it isn’t on back-order. So, where is it? After a few hoverboards spontaneously combusted Amazon began telling customers to throw unsafe boards away (responsibly of course – not just by tossing them in the trash). Amazon has also stopped selling the unsafe boards on their US and UK sites.
Not only are retailers, such as Big W, and online giants, such as Amazon, pulling the not-so-hovering boards from their stock. Several major airlines won’t accept battery-powered self-balancing boards in either checked baggage or carry-ons. Qantas, Virgin Australia, Emirates and American Airlines have all adopted hoverboard policies, making it a no-no to transport these devices on both domestic and international flights. With the growing concern over battery explosions, fires and electrical issues, the airlines haven’t just banned the hoverboard. They’ve also stopped allowing any type of smart scooter or mini Segway too.
“We’ve made the decision based on the inconsistent information about lithium batteries provided by many manufacturers and reported issues with the devices.” Qantas Announcement, December 17, 2015
Unfortunately Russell Crowe wasn’t across their new policy and lashed out at the airline recently, cancelling his flight because they hadn’t warned him he couldn’t bring them onboard. Fortunately common sense prevailed and Australia’s pretty much backing the airline for recognising safety comes first.
Ridiculous @VirginAustralia. No Segway boards as luggage? Too late to tell us at airport.Kids and I offloaded. Goodbye Virgin. Never again.
— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) December 29, 2015
If you do find a hoverboard that seems to meet safety standards (at least, for now) and you don’t have to transport it by air, are you in the clear? Maybe. Maybe not. Despite the concerns over fires and explosions, plenty of Christmas gift-givers handed out hoverboards (or possibly it was Santa?).
In a post-Christmas video glow, YouTube was flooded with funny flicks of unsuspecting hoverboarders falling, crashing and smashing themselves. The silly mishaps may spark giggles, but the more serious injuries have sent boarders to emergency departments across the globe. In Sydney, 16-year-old Jeremy Hulme was knocked unconscious after falling off his hoverboard and left convulsing on the road for up to an hour. Riding the board outdoors, the teen wasn’t wearing a helmet when the self-balancing scooter went out from underneath him.
When it comes to hoverboards, is caution key? Possibly. Like any battery-powered or electrical device, these boards aren’t simple child’s toys. That said, buying your 4-year-old a hoverboard may not be the best idea. Read up on the manufacturer, keep the recall list on your radar and always protect your child (or yourself, if you’re taking a ride) from falls with proper padding and a helmet.