Statement from U.S. CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye on the Safety of Hoverboards and the Status of the Investigation

January 20, 2016

We continue to work diligently to provide the answers on hoverboards that consumers rightfully want and deserve.  As noted in this related announcement, we are actively investigating a number of companies that make or sell hoverboards. 

 

In the interim, I am pleased that at least one leading retailer is erring on the side of caution and taking action now.  For consumers who purchased a hoverboard from Amazon, they can return the product right now for a full refund.  I want to commend Amazon for voluntarily stepping up, providing a free remedy and putting customer safety first.  I encourage consumers to take advantage of Amazon’s offer and to contact the company through the following site: https://www.amazon.com/contact-us/.   

 

As encouraged as I am by Amazon’s actions, I expect other retailers and manufacturers of hoverboards to take action and offer a full refund now to their customers as well.  I also expect responsible large-volume online sellers in particular to stop selling these products until we have more certainty regarding their safety. 

 

Additionally, I want to highlight that Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has announced that while components of hoverboards, such as battery packs and power supplies, might be UL certified, there currently is no UL certification for hoverboards themselves.  For more information on their announcement, please go to: https://ul.com/newsroom/featured/uls-involvement-in-hoverboard-certification/

 

At this time, the presence of a UL mark on hoverboards or their packaging should not be an indication to consumers of the product’s safety.  In fact, any such mark is at best misleading and may even be a sign of a counterfeit product.

 

At CPSC, our investigators and engineers continue to work diligently to find the root cause of the hoverboard fires that have occurred throughout the country.  CPSC staff is focusing on the components of the lithium-ion battery packs as well as their interaction with the circuit boards inside the units.  CPSC staff has consulted with test laboratories, lithium-ion battery representatives and other outside experts to verify safe design practices for use of lithium-ion batteries in hoverboards.  There are certain basic safety technologies we expect these units to have that should prevent overheating and potential combustion.  These are the same readily-available technologies that exist in properly manufactured lithium-ion batteries used in the notebook computers and cell phones we all use every day.

 

Beyond the fire hazards, based on the increasing number of serious injuries and emergency room visits associated with these products, we are also expanding our investigation of the falls associated with hoverboards.  At first glance, it is easy to believe the risk of falling off a hoverboard is an obvious one and to dismiss those injuries as user inexperience or error. 

 

However, I am concerned, for example, that 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, especially a first-time user.  We are looking deeper into the design of these products to see if they present a hidden hazard that is leading to fall injuries that should not occur, even on a product that presents some risk of falling.  

 

Fall injuries can be serious and life-altering.  Many people, including children, have ended up with fractures, contusions or head/brain injuries.  Hospitals across the country are reporting spikes in children and adults being admitted after suffering serious falls.  If you or your child continue to use this product, I recommend that you do so with a helmet and pads.  I have two very active young boys, so I very much appreciate the struggle sometimes to get kids to use safety gear.  But, wearing proper safety gear in this instance should be non-negotiable.

 

As we move forward with our investigation of the fall and fire hazards relating to hoverboards, all options remain on the table for CPSC.  The federal government continues to work in close coordination on this serious issue.  Officials from CPSC, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration are regularly sharing information and insights with a common goal of taking whatever steps are necessary to prevent injuries and property damage from fires and falls.

 

Colleges, universities and other institutions and organizations have been active in prohibiting the use of hoverboards on campus, and I want to commend the leaders of those institutions for putting safety first while our investigation pushes forward.  I am aware they are waiting for the results of our investigation before taking further steps.  We’re moving as quickly as possible to provide those answers. 

 

As I have mentioned before, there are no safety standards for these products.  That is unacceptable.  I am pleased to report that both ASTM International and UL are preparing to work on the development of standards for hoverboards that would seek to address both types of hazards.  I will be directing CPSC staff to participate in those efforts.    

 

In the meantime, I urge consumers to continue to use caution with hoverboards: 

 

  • Have a working fire extinguisher nearby while charging or using these boards in and around your home.
  • Charge in an open area away from combustible materials.
  • Gear up before riding, which means putting on a skateboard helmet, elbow and knee pads and wrist guards.
  • And, do not use a hoverboard on or near a road.

 

We encourage consumers to report fires or falls to us at www.SaferProducts.gov.