If you see a hoverboard for sale, think long and hard before buying it. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has decided that no hoverboard currently on the U.S. market can be considered safe until it meets new safety standards.
"Self-balancing scooters that do not meet these voluntary safety standards pose an unreasonable risk of fire to consumers," said a notice to manufacturers, importers and retailers, issued yesterday (Feb. 18) and signed by Robert J. Howell, acting director at the CPSC's Office of Compliance and Field Operations. The CPSC sent Tom's Guide a full copy of the notice.
The CPSC wants hoverboards to conform to safety standards governing self-balancing scooters announced earlier this month by UL, formerly known as Underwriters Laboratories, an independent safety-certification company that tests most electric and electronic devices sold in the United States. UL's certification applies not only to the typical two-wheeled hoverboard, but also to single-wheel units and any other self-balancing transportation devices.
UL confirmed to Tom's Guide that no self-balancing scooter has yet been certified. Until one is, all hoverboards in the U.S. market are to be considered "defective" and "may present a substantial product hazard," according to the CPSC notice. Imported devices that don't have the UL stamp may be seized at ports, and the CPSC could force recalls of sold units. (This story was first reported by Mashable.)
No recalls have yet been forced by the CPSC. For the moment, the commission is asking those who manufacture and sell the devices to remove them from the U.S. market until they are UL certified. Consumers should check with retailers and manufacturers to see if any have voluntarily recalled the devices.
Between Dec. 1, 2015 and Feb. 17, 2016, the CPSC received reports of 52 self-balancing-scooter fires in 24 states, resulting in $2 million in property damage including "the destruction of two homes and automobile," according to yesterday's notice.
CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye told Mashable that the commission had conducted many hoverboard tests, which included voltage tests, inspections of circuit boards and CT scans of batteries. The agency did not see anything catch fire, but did observe melting and overheating.
In December, Amazon purged a number of hoverboards from its site following reports of hoverboard fires, including a high-profile case in Chappaqua, New York. In late January, the CPSC announced that Amazon would be offering full refunds to hoverboard buyers who asked for their money back.
If you are going to purchase a hoverboard or other self-balancing transport vehicle, make sure to do two things. First, look for the round UL seal on the gadget's packaging. Second, check UL's hoverboards website to make sure that model really has been certified; last month, UL alerted customers that Swagway had been putting fake UL seals on its hoverboard packaging.