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Why a hoverboard is a risky Christmas gift


hoverboardHoverboards are rapidly becoming this festive season’s must-buy tech toy, but the ACCC is concerned about the safety aspect of self-balancing scooters.

Everyone has seen Back To The Future 2, and the iconic hoverboard was the subject of every single joke going for years. Hoverboards were aspirational tech that we would never actually see on store shelves.

However, in 2015, along with finally hitting the movie’s date back in October, a large number of "hoverboards" have hit the market and the streets.

No, they don’t actually hover. They’re essentially self-balancing scooters that look rather like a Segway if you chopped off the balancing bit at the centre, and they come in any number of colours and price points upwards of $200. They’ve quickly become a consumer-desirable object, especially in the holiday season, but there are some issues with hoverboards that have drawn the ire of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

In a media release, the ACCC has highlighted two distinct safety risks with hoverboards that have little to do with being chased across a lake on an unpowered board. Instead, there’s the rather obvious risk of falling off the board and doing yourself serious damage. Anyone who’s ever tried a hoverboard has probably considered that issue -- or probably should have.

The second issue is one that most of us wouldn’t have thought of: The ACCC highlights the issue of hoverboards with inadequate charger wiring, which causes fires. It does note that the fires "most likely relate to products that would not comply with Australian electrical requirements, or to the use of a charger meant for another device", but with the rise of online shopping and the ability to use international shipping agents, it’s always feasible that dodgy boards could end up being sold locally, albeit illegally.

So how can you tell if your hoverboard is a fun time for all or a firebomb waiting to go off? The ACCC advises that you should check for the relevant regulatory symbols on packaging that show the product has passed local rules and testing.

"If you are purchasing a hoverboard this Christmas, ensure that the packaging is marked with the Australian regulatory compliance symbol or RCM – a tick surrounded by a triangle. The RCM signifies that a supplier has taken the necessary steps to ensure the product complies with electrical safety requirements" ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

You’re also advised to carefully check where you’re allowed to actually use a hoverboard, as the rules vary from state to state. Generally, they're illegal on public roads.

If all of this has you pondering a slightly less risky tech gift, you could always give a drone, a droid or a more general tech-themed Christmas gift.

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