Across the UK more than 17,000 self-balancing scooters – or ‘hoverboards’– have been examined at national entry points due to safety concerns. Of these, over 15,000 (or 88%) have been assessed as unsafe and have been detained at the border. Officers at UK ports and borders have seen a huge spike in the number of these items arriving in recent weeks, destined to end up as gifts under the tree this Christmas.
The boards have been detained because of safety issues with the plugs, cabling, chargers, batteries or cut-off switches within the board, which often fail. Many of the items detained and sent for testing have been found to have noncompliant plugs without fuses, which increases the risk of the device overheating, exploding or catching fire.
However, it is almost certain that not all unsafe items have been detected and that some are still arriving in the UK. As such, in Argyll and Bute, the council’s trading standards team has been visiting the local traders and Christmas markets to attempt to identify unsafe products.
Councillor David Kinniburgh, Policy Lead for Regulatory Services, said: “At this time, we have not found any unsafe products for sale in Argyll and Bute shops, however, we are aware that these products are available through online sellers, and we would urge consumers to think carefully before buying from any online site, even if the trader appears to be based in the UK. If buying online, please follow the following advice from the National Trading Standards Board.”
· Never leave the device charging unattended – especially overnight: a faulty cut-off switch (designed to stop the battery from continuing to charge once fully charged) or a plug without a fuse, as seen in many products detained so far, could lead to the device overheating, exploding or catching fire.
· Check the device: things to look out for include the shape of the plug – the first unsafe products identified often had a clover-shaped plug. Also check the device for markings or traceable information, such as the name and contact details of the manufacturer and / or importer.
· If buying online, look closely at the website before you hit the ‘buy’ button:
· Try searching for reviews of the product or the seller – do these seem genuine?
· Are there lots of spelling or grammar mistakes on the site? This can be a clue that a business is not professionally run.
· See if you can find out where the company’s head office is based – and whether that fits with how the website presents itself.
· Do they have a landline number you can call if there are any problems? Bear in mind that if the company is based abroad, it can be more difficult to get a complaint dealt with or return a faulty product.
· Read the small print – notice if anything seems odd, repetitive or in incorrect English.
· Is there an ‘s’ at the end of the ‘http’ part of the web address, or is there a padlock symbol in the task bar? This means the website is using an encrypted system that keeps your details more secure.
· Don’t be dazzled by a bargain: Are the prices incredibly low? If they look too good to be true, they probably are – particularly if some of your other checks have put doubts in your mind.
· Be aware that criminals exploit high demand: When items like self-balancing scooters start to sell out at well-known retailers, the void is quickly filled by crooks churning out poor quality imitations that can put people in danger. Don’t ‘panic buy’ from the first website you find – do your usual common-sense checks.
· Report it: National Trading Standards needs your help to clamp down on unsafe products from abroad. If you believe that any online or face-to-face seller is selling potentially dangerous goods, or something you’ve bought has made you suspicious, report it to Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.
· Buying online for onward sale online? If you do this you are assuming the legal responsibilities of a business to ensure that what you’re selling complies with product safety and intellectual property legislation. For information about this visit: https://www.gov.uk/starting-to-import