Technology

Hazardous hoverboards: ACCC to launch 'formal investigation'

The federal government has announced the consumer watchdog will launch an investigation into the safety of hoverboards – or electronic balancing scooters – which have caused fires and serious injuries in Australia and overseas.

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The statement comes in the wake of a non-compliant charger for a no-name hoverboard sparking a blaze that destroyed a Melbourne home on Tuesday.

"The Victorian incident raises serious concerns and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will conduct a formal investigation into the safety of these products," a spokesperson for Small Business Minister Kelly O'Dwyer said.

Ash Ibraheim and his family escaped with their lives after their house was razed by fire, believed to have been caused ...
Ash Ibraheim and his family escaped with their lives after their house was razed by fire, believed to have been caused by a recharging hoverboard. Photo: Justin McManus

"The ACCC is continuing to co-ordinate recalls of non-compliant products and has provided consumer safety information on the Recalls Australia and Product Safety Australia websites. The minister intends to respond to the Victorian minister with this information."

Victoria's Consumer Affairs Minister Jane Garrett had earlier urged Ms O'Dwyer to consider a permanent ban on the devices, given many did not meet Australia's safety standards.

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The minister's spokesperson reiterated the incident was a matter for Victorian electrical safety authorities.

"Electrical safety is managed under state and territory laws. These products should comply with state electrical safety standards and display compliance marks, and be used, stored and charged carefully," she said.

A fire investigator carries a hoverboard of the same make as the one that caused a house fire in Melbourne.
A fire investigator carries a hoverboard of the same make as the one that caused a house fire in Melbourne.  Photo: Justin McManus

NSW's minister responsible for fair trading, Victor Dominello, also urged owners of recalled hoverboards to stop using the toys and return them.

"People need to remember that although these products may be sold as toys, they are an electrical device," Mr Dominello said.

Hot wheels: a hoverboard on fire in the US.
Hot wheels: a hoverboard on fire in the US. 

"They have become a popular product in recent times but you should never leave a child alone when they are using them and never leave a hoverboard charging unattended."

So far, six hoverboards or their chargers have been recalled, including the Moonwalker two-wheel scooter by Hunter Sports sold at Big W, the charger for two Go Skitz models sold at numerous stores, including Harvey Norman, and the charger for the AirWalk scooter sold via various online stores including Catch of the Day.

The hoverboard that caused the Melbourne house fire was purchased from a Sydney-based online retailer, but had no brand name, hampering the investigation and recall recommendations.

The ACCC has identified risks to users from falls, as well as products that are non-compliant.

Consumers are being urged to check any hoverboard for the Australian approval number or marks that may be in the form of a tick surrounded by a triangle, which signifies the supplier has gained an electrical safety approval for the device.

"Never force a plug on an electrical device. Only charge your hoverboard when you are at home and only use the charger that came with the product. Never place it on charge and leave it unattended. Devices can overheat if they are overcharged and non-compliant devices may ignite if over-charged," Mr Dominello said.

Owners of compliant hoverboards are encouraged to wear protective gear, including helmets, shoes, kneepads, elbow pads and wrist guards.

Affected consumers are urged to seek a full refund from the retailer.

Master Electricians Australia chief executive Malcolm Richards demanded that regulators begin prosecuting suppliers of unsafe electrical products, saying "enough is enough".

He also said regulators needed obtain purchase lists from every retailer – including Big W, eBay and Scoopon – in order to warn owners they needed to stop using the faulty product.

The Victorian Government is pushing for a complete ban on hoverboards after a number of reports about the self-balancing toy catching fire. 

The state Consumer Affairs Minister Jane Garrett has written to the Federal Minister for Small Business, Kelly O'Dwyer, to "permanently ban" the popular Christmas present.