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Safety warning for "hoverboards" ahead of Christmas

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West Berkshire Trading Standards warn of fire risk

West Berkshire’s Trading Standards team have warned that this year’s “must-have” Christmas item is a safety risk, after 88 per cent of items tested were deemed unsafe.

The West Berkshire and Wokingham Trading Standards team are urging customers to take extra care when purchasing “hoverboards” as Christmas presents after urgent advice from the National Trading Standard Department.

After analysing more than 17,000 of the self-balancing scooters, or “hoverboards”, 15,000 were considered unsafe and have been blocked from entering UK borders.

Safety issues that the Trading Standards team have identified include failings with the circuitry and an increased risk of fire, overheating and explosion.

Trading Standards said that in recent months the faults have caused extensive damage to people’s property and have compiled a safety list for anybody who has or is planning to purchase one:

  • 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.

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