Belfast Telegraph

Hoverboard fire: East Belfast house on Ardgowan Street destroyed

An east Belfast house has been destroyed by a fire that the family say was caused by a child's hoverboard.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said they received a report of the fire at 6:50pm on Monday and sent two fire appliances to the house in Ardgowan Street.

Homeowner Sharon Massey told BBC Northern Ireland that she bought the self-balancing two-wheeled electric scooter, commonly referred to as a hoverboard, for her daughter for Christmas.

Ms Massey said: "We heard an almighty bang and in a matter of seconds it was everywhere. The curtains caught, everything caught. We all just got up and ran straight out the door. It's hard to believe [a toy] could do that much damage."

A Belfast City Council spokeswoman said the environmental health department "has dealt with a number of calls about so-called hoverboards".

She added: "We have been advising consumers against purchasing these boards as there is uncertainty around the product safety, and this is in line with advice already in the public domain.

"In light of the safety concerns, many retailers that were selling these goods voluntarily withdrew them from sale; or the supplier withdrew the stock at source.

"Anyone who has bought one of these items and is concerned about their child using it can seek a refund from the supplier/manufacturer. Our consumer advice staff can offer guidance on this. We will also investigate any complaints from members of the public about these items being sold in the Belfast area."

Earlier this month 13-year-old boy from Bradford was been praised by firefighters after he led two younger children to safety when a hoverboard burst into flames.

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Amazon stopped selling hoverboards amid growing concerns over the safety of the popular gadget in December last year.

Swagway, which makes the self-balancing boards, said a "widespread notice" had been sent to sellers on the online retail site asking them to prove their products are compliant with safety standards.

It appears that listings for hoverboards have since been removed from Amazon UK, with only product accessories remaining on sale.

Amazon advised customers who have bought boards with unsafe plugs to throw them away as a watchdog urged all retailers to remove them from sale.

The internet giant sent two separate emails, the first to customers who bought hoverboards with non-compliant UK plugs.

The email reads: "We've received information that your order purchased through the website is unsafe for use as this product is supplied with a non-compliant UK plug."

The email says these customers should dispose of the boards at a recycling centre, adding that they will receive a full refund.

It says: "We regret the inconvenience this may cause you but trust you will understand that your safety and satisfaction is our highest priority."

Another email sent to all others who bought the boards warns that Trading Standards has raised concerns about their safety, in particular their rechargeable lithium batteries and plugs, and includes a link to safety tips.

It asks anyone who would rather not keep the product to contact Amazon customer service.

Listings for the boards were removed from Amazon UK, John Lewis and Argos.

The Government has warned consumers to "think twice" about buying the gift amid fears over imitation devices being sold at discount prices.

The National Trading Standards said 15,000 of the 17,000 boards examined since October 15 had been seized, mainly for having non-compliant electrical components that could explode or catch fire.

Many of the boards were found to have non-compliant plugs without fuses, which increase the risk of the device overheating, exploding or catching fire, and cut-off switches which failed when tested.

Chargers, cabling and batteries were also found to fail safety standards.

The Retail Ombudsman watchdog said businesses could be liable for any injuries.

Chief ombudsman Dean Dunham said: "I would urge UK retailers to take the responsible step of removing unsafe hoverboards from sale or face the risk of the full force of the Consumer Protection Act, under which the retailer can be held liable for any injuries caused by unsafe goods.

"Retailers who continue to sell hoverboards, that they deem to be safe, should also take note of the Crown Prosecution Service's position. They have made clear that for safety reasons it is illegal to ride these hoverboards in public (on the road or paths) and this important information should be communicated to the consumer at the point of sale.

"Consumers who have already purchased a hoverboard, perhaps as a Christmas present, should contact the retailer and for their written assurance that it's safe and in particular that it has a compliant plug with a fuse.

"Where retailers are unable to provide such assurance, consumers should simply ask for a refund as they are entitled to under the Consumer Rights Act and report the matter to Citizens Advice consumer service by calling 03454 04 05 06."

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