CPSC Intensifies Investigation Into Exploding “Hoverboards,” USPS Restricts Shipments

IMG-20151214-00061One of the holiday’s hottest gifts has gotten a bit too hot, literally. Following claims that so-called “hoverboard” scooters have caught fire while charging, retailers have pulled the popular devices to ensure they’re safe. In the meantime, the country’s top product safety regulator says his agency is working “non-stop” to find the root cause for the fire hazards linked to the self-balancing scooters. 

Elliot Kaye, Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman, said on Wednesday that he directed agency staff to intensify their investigation into the safety of hoverboards.

“The challenge is to move quickly but also thoroughly and carefully to find out why certain hoverboards caught fire,” Kaye said in a statement. “Every consumer who is riding a hoverboard, who purchased one to give as a gift during the holidays, or who is thinking about buying one deserves to know if there is a safety defect.”

For now, the agency is actively investigating hoverboard-related fires across the country, but Kaye failed to specify just how many fires have been reported to the CPSC.

The CPSC has both purchased new hoverboards and taken possession of those that have caught fire to better determine what causes the hazard.

Engineers at the National Product Testing and Evaluation Center are testing and will continue to test new and damaged boards, Kaye said, noting that staff is looking particularly closely at the configuration of the battery packs and compatibility with the chargers.

Although the safety of hoverboards has largely centered on fire risks lately, Kaye took time to remind consumers that there are other risks, specifically that of falls.

“I do not want to downplay the fall hazard,” he said. “CPSC has received dozens of reports of injuries from hospital ERs that we have contracts with and they continue to feed us real-time data.”

Some of those injuries have been serious, including concussions, fractures, contusions/abrasions, and internal organ injuries.

The agency reminded scooter riders to always wear a proper helmet and padding while using the device, and offered a list of tips that can reduce the risk of an incident.

People who encounter an issue with their hoverboard are urged to file a report with the CPSC.

“We know this is a popular product during this holiday season, and we are doing everything possible to determine if consumers are at risk,” Kaye said. “We will keep the public up-to-date with new information as it becomes available.”

In other hoverboard news, the United States Postal Service announced on Thursday that it will only ship the scooters via ground service.

“Effective immediately and until further notice, USPS will ship hoverboards using only Standard Post/Parcel Select,” the USPS said in a statement. “This product travels on ground transportation, due to the potential safety hazards of lithium batteries.”

Issues with hoverboards first started popping up this fall when authorities in the U.K. began to intensify their oversight of the products. Most recently, Amazon’s U.K. arm began offering refunds to customers and urging them to throw away their scooters following safety concerns in the country, Newsweek reports.

Prior to that, the company pulled several hoverboard brands from its U.S. marketplace, directing manufactures to provide documentation on safety standards. On Wednesday, Target followed suit removing several Swagway-branded boards from its website.

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