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A mother from High Wycombe suffered from serious burns when the 'hoverboard' she bought from Costco ended up exploding 'like a bomb' when she took it off charge just six days after purchasing it.
JoAnn Ensell is one of several people around the country to have been injured or harmed after buying a self-balancing two wheeled board that was extremely popular last Christmas. Costco, where the board was purchased in 2015, settled the case with the Ensell family last month.
The exploded hoverboard was subjected to electrical analysis by Trading Standards. The assessment identified safety issues with the batteries, charger, plugs and cabling.
JoAnn's husband, David, and 11 year-old son, Henry, were not injured in the incident but the experience was frightening and caused them distress.
Like many modern electrical products, hoverboards use lithium batteries which store a great deal of energy. In the event of electrical failure, lithium ion batteries can explode, posing a serious risk of injury. Most mobile phone also use lithium batteries, including the ill-fated Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which had to be taken off sale completely following worldwide reports of explosions.
Last year, Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards intercepted a £7,000 consignment of 51 self balancing boards imported from China and sent them for testing to see if they complied with electrical safety standards.
Many hoverboards were found to be dangerous and destroyed, while several retailers, including Costco, had to pull the items from their shelves.
“I was taking the hoverboard off charge and it suddenly exploded like a bomb had gone off. I suffered excruciating burns that carried all the way from my hand and up to the top of my arm, and even my hair caught fire. My blistered skin was the worst pain I have ever experienced but I was more worried about the safety of my son.
“My burns have healed since the accident but I still have scarring and the terrifying memory of what happened. I would advise anyone buying an electrical gift this Christmas to only buy from a reputable company, check all parts of the product and to never leave them unattended when charging.”
The Ensell family's lawyer, Matthew Newbould, expert product liability lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said:
“Hoverboards are often bought as a present and are commonly used inside because they cannot be legally used on public land – this puts peoples’ homes at immediate risk.
“JoAnn suffered serious burns on her arm, and the family is lucky to not have had their home destroyed in a fire from the explosion. We have seen hoverboard cases where families have been left without a home and possessions after they have been destroyed.
“The majority of manufacturers and retailers care about the safety of their products and take a keen interest in securing the high standards their reputations depend upon. But the huge range of consumer products available in today’s market place inevitably means that some products are less safe than others, especially given the number of counterfeit products being sold.
“Sometimes it can be really hard to tell the difference between counterfeit products and genuine items. Buying a fake electrical product can pose a serious safety threat, from leaking batteries to products overheating and exploding."
Mr Newbould 's 5 top tips for buying electrical gifts this Christmas
1) Check that the company you are buying from is reputable. If buying online, Trading Standards recommend looking for a professional website, with a landline contact number, details of a head office, and accurate spelling and grammar as evidence that the company is legitimate.
2) Look for the CE mark on all parts of the product. All products imported into Europe are required to carry the CE mark as evidence of safety compliance. If the CE mark is missing, the product may be unsafe or a counterfeit.
3) Be careful if replacing components such as the charger, or if you are buying individual components separately. Some devices which may appear to be compatible with one another, may not be, and could create a risk of fire or explosion. Always check with the seller that the individual parts are suitable for use with one another.
4) Register your warranty for the product with the manufacturer. Registration of your warranty is the currently the only way the manufacturer can obtain your details and notify you in the event that a product recall or a safety notice is required.
5) Buy with a credit card if possible. That way, if there is a problem with the product, you will have additional legal protection under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, including in some cases the right to seek compensation from your credit provider, rather than the seller or manufacturer.