Amazon offers to refund all buyers of hoverboards even as safety officials investigate dozens of fire incidents
According a release from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Amazon will offer refunds to those who have purchased hoverboards through their site. The move made by Amazon as in response to incidents due to fires and falls caused by the two-wheeled balance boards or self-balancing boards.
In the meantime, CPSC is urging anyone who keeps their hoverboard to have a working fire extinguisher handy. It is also suggesting users to wear protective gear, stay off roads and charge the boards away from combustible materials.
Praising Amazon’s decision on Wednesday, U.S. CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye said he was “pleased that at least one leading retailer is erring on the side of caution.” He referred disgruntled hoverboard owners to Amazon’s contact page to claim their refund.
“I want to commend Amazon for voluntarily stepping up, providing a free remedy and putting customer safety first,” Kaye said.
The U.S. CPSC said it expects other manufacturers and retailers to follow suit, who has been investigating hoverboard safety issues since December.
Because of “the increasing number of serious injuries and emergency room visits associated with these products,” the commission announced that it was looking into dozens of blazes involving the smart boards, thought to be caused by lithium-ion batteries and the hoverboards’ electronic wiring.
“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,” said Kaye in a statement. “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.”
The group’s safety-conscious chairman Kaye also said that the boards present a serious falling risk, a comment supported by dozens of videos showing users, including boxing legend Mike Tyson, falling from scooters onto their keisters.
Kaye also flagged the fact there is no safety standard in place for hoverboards, and warned that a UL mark, a sign of electrical compliance granted by a respected certification company, was not a reliable indicator of device safety. A number of hoverboards have been found with counterfeit UL marks.
The CPSC is already looking into at least 39 reports of hoverboards smoking or bursting into flames, often while charging. The agency believes the fires may be due to overheating of lithium ion batteries. Until now, CPSC is investigating hoverboards made by 13 manufacturers.
More than 30 colleges have temporarily banned the cheap transportation devices, while the wait for a conclusive finding from the CPSC is still on. Couple of industry groups announced they are working on creating safety standards for hoverboards.
Amazon started offering refunds in December on some hoverboard models sold in the UK. It also stopped selling certain hoverboard models around the world. Most recently, the online retailer has emailed some customers in the U.S. who purchased the boards and offered refunds. Anyone interested in returning their hoverboard can contact Amazon customer service.
However, Amazon has not yet confirmed whether the refunds are applicable all hoverboards or to the US only or apply worldwide.
While Amazon is offering refunds, it is still providing some hoverboards including a model from Swagway, which is listed as one of the 13 companies below whose products are being investigated by the CPSC.
Meanwhile, the CPSC said that is “actively investigating” boards made or sold by the following 13 companies and it is testing hoverboards at its facility in Rockville, Maryland:
• Smart Balance Wheel/One Stop Electronic Inc.
• Smart Balance Wheel Scooter/Glide Boards
• Hover-way Hands-Free Electric/Digital Gadgets LLC
• Swagway Hands-Free Smart Board/Swagway LLC
• Smart Balance Board/I Lean Hoverboards
• E-Rover-Mini Smart Balance Scooter/LeCam Technology
• Smart Balance Wheels/Kateeskitty
• iMOTO/Keenford Limited
• Smart Balance Wheel/Luxiyan and
• E-Rover Smart Balance Wheel
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 by the U.S. Postal Service.