Hoverboards, also called self-balancing scooters, have flooded the American market—they are everywhere. Retailers are struggling to keep them in stock, and many celebrities have been seen riding the Segway-inspired devices. However, every day it seems that there are more reports of hoverboards catching fire and exploding. Although the cause of these fires is still under investigation, early reports seem to indicate that faulty lithium-ion batteries may be to blame. Considering the global lack of safety standards, it is surprising that there have not been even more incidents.
How did this product manage to gain a foothold in the United States, despite serious safety issues? First, almost every brand of hoverboard is made in China, most in the cheap technology manufacturing center in Shanzhen. In the month of October alone, 400,000 hoverboards were exported from Shanzhen. Chinese manufacturers are so efficient, that a mere idea can become a real product on a shelf in an American store in a matter of weeks. In addition, the American consumer electronics market is essentially self-regulated. And to make matters worse, manufacturers are exploiting a patent war between three inventors that has allowed nearly anyone to cash in on the hoverboard trend.
Seattle engineer Shane Chen was issued a patent in 2014 for a self-balancing scooter. When he premiered the device at a New York City toy fair, he saw a booth (occupied by American distributor IO Hawk) that was showcasing an identical device. IO Hawk’s hoverboard is produced by CHIC, a “white-label” Chinese manufacturer. “White-label” manufacturers make products for companies to sell under their own names. Shane Chen subsequently sued IO Hawk and CHIC. Then, Shane was himself sued by Ninebot—the Chinese acquirer of the Segway. Because these issues have not been resolved, it is unclear who owns the hoverboard patent, and importers are all seeking to profit from the confusion.
Online companies in China allow wholesalers to purchase bulk orders of anything, and they will brand the goods with whatever name and logo the buyer desires. None of these hoverboards sold in the United States are subject to any safety regulations or inspections.
In the United States, the only agency that regulates safety of hoverboards is the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC relies on importers and manufacturers to test products themselves. They do not inspect hoverboards when they arrive in port from China to be sold in the United States due to budget constraints.
Some manufacturers voluntarily employ third-party companies such as UL, a private, for-profit independent certifier of electronics, to test their goods for safety. Big-box stores like Wal-Mart only sell UL certified products in their brick and mortar stores, but still sell non-UL approved items online. Some hoverboard companies claim their products are UL approved, when in reality, only certain components have received UL certification.
The Experienced Lawyers At Shebell & Shebell Fight For Victims of Defective Hoverboards
As a consumer, you may feel that you can trust the companies who manufacture and sell you goods. However, the unfortunate truth is that there is very little in the way of safety control and testing for many products being sold in-stores and online. If you or someone you love has been injured by a defective hoverboard, we can help you hold the responsible parties accountable for your injuries. Call us at 732-532-2011 or contact us online.