Trading Standards officers have uncovered a haul of unsafe ‘hoverboards’ destined to be sold as Christmas presents or used at children’s parties.
Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards intercepted a £7,000 consignment of 51 self-balancing boards imported from China and sent them for testing to see if they complied with electrical safety standards.
They will now ensure the boards - also known as self-balancing scooters or balance boards - can never be used by the public after checks showed that chargers and battery packs supplied with the products posed a fire risk.
A further consignment of 90 boards has been impounded while officers check they are safe. They will be released to the market only if they meet all required standards.
The seizures come just weeks after a self-balancing board exploded and caught fire in the home of the Ensell family in High Wycombe.
Trading standards officers are investigating the case in which Joann Ensell sustained burns when the board belonging to her 10-year-old son, Henry, exploded and caught fire.
Henry’s father, David Ensell, said it had been taken off charge and was on the floor when it suddenly exploded. His wife, he said, was now recovering from her injuries.
“We bought it from a reputable retailer,” said Mr Ensell. “And my advice is always to use a reputable retailer, follow the operating instructions, which we did, but always to take extra precautions because things can and do go wrong - as we found out.”
Trading Standards officers have sent Henry’s charred board for examination to a test laboratory.
The consignment seized by Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards was brought into the country through Heathrow and sent to an inspection point in Surrey where officers spotted possible safety risks.
The Back to the Future-style boards have surged in popularity in recent months and are expected to be one of the biggest-selling gadgets this Christmas.
But reports have emerged of poor quality versions that lack proper safety functions.
Shoppers are now being urged to be on their guard when buying a board.
As National Trading Standards today (Thursday) highlighted the scale of safety problems, with 15,000 boards being detained at seaports and airports around the country, Buckinghamshire and Surrey officers issued advice for consumers considering buying a board.
* Be wary of bargains on boards and prices that seem too good to be true.
* Look at the shape of the plug – the first unsafe products identified often had a clover-shaped plug.
* Check for markings or traceable information, such as the manufacturer and importer.
Trading Standards Officer Bharti Gorania-Wood said buyers also needed to be aware that these boards were not classified as toys and could not be used on public highways.
Martin Phillips, Buckinghamshire County Council’s cabinet member for community engagement and public health, said: “I’m pleased our vigilant trading standards officers have had the seized products tested for electrical problems, which confirms their suspicion that these boards could put people’s safety at risk.
“We really don’t want a repeat of the terrible experience the Ensell family had with an imported board, and I’d urge residents considering giving one of these boards for Christmas to be wary of cheap deals and to do their homework before buying.”
Anyone who has concerns about a product they have seen for sale or have already bought should contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.