Anyone with a self-balancing scooter atop their wish list this season may be disappointed come the big day.
Border officials have already impounded more than 15,000 of the devices, commonly called hoverboards, at UK ports in the lead up to Christmas, and major British retailers have issued recall notices for versions of the product they have been selling. Trading Standards officers have identified major safety risks with the boards, including issues with the plug, cabling, charger, battery and cut-off switch, meaning they don't comply with UK or EU standards.
"Criminals and irresponsible manufacturers will often exploit high demand and attempt to flood the market with cheap and dangerous products," said Leon Livermore, chief executive of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute. "Consumers should not let a new fashion or craze cloud their judgement."
New technology products don't always smoothly rise from obscurity to must-have gifts. The seemingly innocuous no-hands personal transporters became controversial this year even before the safety warnings. In October the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK branded public use of the scooters illegal, saying that they could only be used on private property with the landowner's permission.
Not every model of hoverboard poses a fire hazard, but consumers are advised to exercise caution when buying online and importing devices from abroad. Trading Standards has issued a list of factors buyers should take into account when attempting to purchase a hoverboard online. Before hitting purchase, they should examine the website they are buying from carefully and look for legitimate reviews.
Those who have purchased hoverboards shouldn't leave them charging unattended, particularly overnight. One of the primary problems with the faulty hoverboards is that many lack a cut-off switch, which stops the device from charging when the battery is full.
Without the switch, the device is at risk of overheating, exploding or catching fire, Trading Standards warns. Exploding hoverboards caused two house fires in October, the London Fire Brigade said.
Consumers should also look out for devices that come with cloverleaf-shaped plugs, which many of the faulty devices ship with.
Trading Standards reports that the spike in the number of hoverboards arriving means that testing houses are full to capacity and extra staff are being trained to deal with the demand.
Consumer Minister Nick Boles urged anyone in the UK who suspects a hoverboard not to be genuine to report it to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline, which can be reached on 03454 040506.