Momentum is building for a nationwide ban on hoverboards after one of the battery-powered toys started a housefire in Victoria.
The two-wheeled, Chinese-made electric toys, which resemble miniature segways without handles, pose a severe fire risk, as proven in Melbourne this week.
In response to the blaze, Victorian consumer affairs minister Jane Garrett petitioned the federal government on Wednesday for a national ban on the toys.
“These toys are very popular but they are also dangerous and could have devastating consequences if they are dodgy or aren’t used properly,” Ms Garrett said in a statement provided to The New Daily.
Australian consumers would be well aware of the fire risk thanks to repeated warnings from experts over the Christmas period. But these cautions were not enough to help the Ibraheim family, formerly of Lebanon Street, Strathmore. Ash Ibraheim and his four daughters were rendered homeless on Monday night when one of the girl’s hoverboards ignited in a bedroom, charring half the residence.
Ms Garrett’s call was echoed by a consumer advocacy group based in Melbourne, which supported a temporary ban on sales of the “dangerous product”.
“I think an interim ban would be a good idea, and then ensure that any hoverboards sold beyond that ban have been checked and are safe according to stringent standards,” Consumer Action Law Centre senior policy officer Zac Gillam told The New Daily.
“Our view is that if the products can be determined to be safe, then they should be able to be sold, but there’s a big question mark at the moment over whether [hoverboards] are safe or not. The standards perhaps need to be reviewed relating to these particular products.”
Unclear which brands are safe
Investigations into the cause of the Melbourne house fire are ongoing. The nation’s electrical goods regulator, ERAC, confirmed to The New Daily that the exact brand and model of hoverboard that sparked the blaze was still unknown.
It was this uncertainty that concerned the nation’s foremost consumer advocacy group, CHOICE. Its spokesperson did not lobby for a blanket ban, but said it should be considered.
“We were very excited to hear the call from Jane Garrett,” CHOICE spokesperson Erin Turner said.
“Action by government and regulators is required. It’s timely to assess if the risks are too great [to allow hoverboards to be sold],” Ms Turner said.
NSW fair trading minister Victor Dominello declined to comment to The New Daily on the possibility of a nationwide ban. His office has reportedly been contacted by his Victorian counterpart in relation to the matter.
The Victorian consumer affairs minister also claimed to have petitioned federal Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer, who is responsible for consumer affairs. Ms O’Dwyer’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Why are the toys catching fire?
Hoverboards are powered by lithium batteries. There are many brands, but it seems all are manufactured in China, where it is thought there are no regulations on exported electrical goods.
The fire risk has been blamed on poorly manufactured batteries, chargers or both.
Some models of hoverboard openly admit on packaging to failing to protect against overcharging: a safety mechanism that disables electrical current to the battery when a certain threshold (usually 85 per cent) of its capacity has been reached.
The nation’s electrical goods regulator and an independent lithium battery expert both confirmed previously to The New Daily that it is illegal to sell charges without overcharge protection in Australia.
Since December, the following six types of hoverboards have been recalled because they lacked the overcharge safety feature: