Amazon will offering refunds to anyone living in the US or Canada that bought a hoverboard through their website .
The move comes amid growing concerns that the two-wheeled balance boards are not safe and continue to remain a fire hazard.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating more than three dozen instances of hoverboards smoking or bursting into flames.
Playing with fire: This hoverboard was charged for around 10 hours before is exploded while being taken for a test ride. 17 states have reported at least one fire caused by them over the holidays (file image)
The CPSC said it was looking into dozens of blazes involving the smart boards, thought to be caused by lithium-ion batteries and the hoverboards’ electronic wiring.
Earlier this week, a hoverboard was blamed for starting at house fire in California that killed two dogs.
The blaze, at a family home in Santa Rosa, broke out on Monday while the device was plugged into a wall socket to charge, fire crews said.
Fortunately the homeowner, named locally as David Carpenter, was out at the time while picking up his daughter from soccer practice.
A hoverboard has been blamed for starting a house fire in Santa Rosa, California, that killed two dogs and caused $250,000 worth of damage while the owner was collecting his daughter from soccer practice
According to neighbors, smoke and flames were pouring out of the upstairs windows while the two dogs were trapped inside.
Santa Rosa Fire Battalion Chief Mark Basque estimates the blaze caused $200,000 to $250,000 in damage.
A total of eighteen firefighters and four fire engines were required to extinguish the blaze.
Experts are also urging users to wear safety gear, as some falls can be serious.
CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye said that the boards also sent a serious falling risk.
‘The current designs of these products might not take fully into consideration the different weights of different users, potentially leading to the units speeding up or lurching in a manner that a user would not have reason to anticipate,’ he said.
The CPSC welcomed Amazon’s decision to offer refunds, and has called on other retailers and manufacturers to do the same.
Burning rubber: The fires are thought to be caused by badly-wired lithium-ion batteries inside some cheap units, often manufactured in China, which can easily overheat and burst into flames (file image)
HOW TO SPOT A SAFE HOVERBOARD
Consumers are advised to check the packaging has a manufacturer’s name and contact details
In the past few months, hoverboard companies have come under fire for issuing products that can suddenly explode.
Many of these occurrences were found to be a result of counterfeit devices.
One consumer found instructions that include: ‘Get off the bus, get off before you stop intelligent drifting scooter balance state, one foot down, the other one foot in the left drifting scooter again.’
KCC Trading Standards Operations Manager James Whiddett said: ‘The first thing consumers should do is check the packaging.
‘They won’t have manufacturer details on them.
‘Plugs won’t go into your socket properly and without a fuse, they’re very dangerous.
‘The product itself should have a CE mark on it and the ones we have found have nothing on them at all.
‘These things have batteries in them that can overheat and catch fire and we’ve seen that happen in the county already. Remember the golden rule, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.’
The instructions should contain all the information you need to use the product safely and the manufacturers name and address should be included so you can contact them if anything goes wrong.
Check for spelling mistakes on the box; this is a giveaway for counterfeits. They also often copy safety marks, so take a close look to be sure they are genuine.
Amazon stopped selling many models in December but despite this latest decision, The Everything Store is still selling hoverboards on its site including a model from Swagway, which is listed as one of the 13 companies whose products are being investigated by the CPSC.
Amazon’s refund offer is the latest in a series of hiccups for hoverboards, which have been banned by major airlines and major colleges in addition to being restricted to ground transportation by the U.S. Postal Service.
Hoverboards, which consist of a self-balancing board between two small wheels, were among the must-have Christmas gifts of 2015.
However, the devices, which range in price from $200 to $2,000, have become notorious for starting fires – with at least 17 of 50 states reporting at least one over the holidays.
Three of America’s four largest airlines have now banned the devices from check-in and carry-on baggage, while a leading manufacturer, Swagway, has been hit with a class-action lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Australian consumer affairs minister Kelly O’Dwyer has been asked to consider a country-wide ban on the devices following a fire in Victoria.
From left to right is Kendall Jenner, Brooklyn Beckham and Wiz Khalifa, all using hoverboards. Anyone found riding the two-wheeled electric vehicles in New York could face a $500 fine
While the exact cause of the fires has not been established, it appears the fault lies with the lithium-ion batteries mounted inside.
Millions of devices, from laptops to phones and e-cigarettes, are fitted with the batteries which are preferred to older nickel-cadmium units because they are more powerful, last longer, and do not develop a ‘memory’ if not fully charged each time.
While the batteries are perfectly safe if undamaged and wired properly, there is concern that some hoverboards are being manufactured incorrectly, leaving them at risk.
Good quality devices have special circuits that prevent the batteries from overheating or being overcharged, dramatically reducing the chance of catastrophic failure.
However, poorly manufactured, non-branded units, often from China, usually do not have these additional safety systems.
Also, if a lithium ion battery is damaged, it can short-circuit and lead to a meltdown.
In the UK, National Trading Standards said 15,000 of the 17,000 – or nine in ten – of the gadgets it has examined since October have been detained, mainly for having non-compliant electrical components that could explode or catch fire.
And New York City has officially banned hoverboards. Anyone found riding the two-wheeled electric vehicles on the street or sidewalk could face a $500 fine and have their hoverboard impounded.
THE LEAN MACHINE THAT ALLOWS RIDERS TO REACH SPEEDS OF 10MPH
The levitating device used by actor Michael J Fox in Back To The Future II gave hoverboards their name.
But unlike Marty McFly’s board from 1989, those on sale now are firmly grounded, with two wheels and a gyroscope that allow riders to reach 10mph. The rider simply leans in their chosen direction and the hoverboard’s internal sensors and motor do the rest.
The risks primarily relate to the batteries and how they are charged. Many lack cut-off switches to prevent overheating, or have plugs without fuses.
This gyroscope allows riders to reach 10mph
Leon Livermore, of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, has said: ‘Irresponsible manufacturers will often exploit high demand and attempt to flood the market with cheap and dangerous products. Some products made abroad are not fitted with the correct plug and fuse for use in the UK.’
He said buyers should check the three-pin plug is made to the BS1363 safety standard, and not leave devices unattended when charging.