Major Product Fail of 2015: Hoverboards

hoverboards fedorovacz/Adobe Stock

Of all the product recalls of 2015, the recent hoverboard disaster is perhaps the biggest bummer of them all. Kids and adults alike were excited for the levitating devices first dreamed up in Back to the Future films of the ‘80s. But all of the falls and fires associated with hoverboards lately have amounted to a major fail in the fun department.

Consumers who received a hoverboard for Christmas are being told to beware. Not only has the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued safety warnings about the devices, but a number of companies selling hoverboard have recalled their products as more reports of fires come in. Tesco issued a recall for its “iCandy Airboard Glider Balance Board.” Argos recalled its Nevaboard hoverboards in the U.K., as well.  

Many consumers are likely well aware of the fire hazard associated with hoverboards. Amazon stopped selling some hoverboards before Christmas due to safety concerns and even told customers who bought certain hoverboards to throw them away. News outlets have also been reporting on about a dozen different incidents where hoverboards have started on fire.

U.S. CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye issued a statement on Dec. 16 telling consumers the agency was investigating a possible safety defect in hoverboards. Specifically, the agency was looking at the products’ battery packs and compatibility with the chargers.

The CPSC issued a number of tips hoverboard owners could take to reduce the risk of fire or other incidents. For example, the agency told consumers not to charge hoverboards overnight or leave it charging unattended and allow the hoverboard to cool off after riding for an hour before charging again.

However, there does not seem to be a single reason hoverboards are catching on fire — at least, not yet. Some reports state the products caught on fire while charging, while others started on fire while a person was riding the hoverboard. Others have simply started smoking while just sitting on the floor. Two hoverboard fires were reported in New Jersey recently. On Christmas Day, there was a report in Georgia of a hoverboard catching on fire in a home,  causing damage to the floor and walls of the dining room. And, a hoverboard caught on fire in the middle of a Texas mall the week after Christmas, an incident that was caught on camera.

A number of delivery service companies, as well as the United States Postal Service, have said hoverboard could only be shipped via ground service. UPS issued a statement before Christmas reminding consumers hoverboards could not be shipped by air due to the lithium batteries used in the products. Airline companies including American, United and Delta also banned hoverboards on flights due to the possibility of overheating and catching on fire.

There are also reports of injuries associated with hoverboards that are not fire related. As of late December, the CPSC said there were 70 reports of emergency room visits due to hoverboards. People were falling off the devices, colliding with other objects while riding them or reporting other injuries associated with the devices. These reports were coming in from all over the world. The hashtag #hoverboardfail also became popular on Twitter and social media over the Christmas weekend.

CPSC’s Kaye said he was concerned that no safety standards existed at the moment for hoverboards.

“Retailers should always be asking their suppliers if there is an applicable safety standard in place before agreeing to sell those products,” Kaye said in the statement. “The absence of any standard should cause retailers to require extra proof of sound design, manufacturing and quality control processes.”  

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