Police have accused retailers of selling private e-scooters without making customers fully aware they cannot legally be used on public land.
The Metropolitan Police said many riders are being fined and having their vehicles seized after not being given “sufficient explanation and guidance” when they made the purchase.
It has partnered with Transport for London in writing to retailers urging them not to “exploit” their customers as thousands of e-scooters are expected to be sold in the run-up to Christmas.
Private e-scooters can only legally be used on private land in the UK but are a common sight on roads and pavements in urban areas.
Some 3,637 have been seized by the Metropolitan Police this year.
Several users were spoken to by officers during an operation on London’s Blackfriars Bridge on Wednesday morning.
One e-scooter seized is believed to be capable of reaching 50mph.
The Met’s head of roads policing, Commander Kyle Gordon, said: “We know that some people may be unfamiliar with the rules around e-scooters and this is something we are working hard with partners to address.
“It is really unhelpful that retailers, fully aware of the risks they are creating for the public, continue to profit from selling machines illegal for use on public roads without sufficient explanation and guidance.
“This is leaving many with expensive seizures, fines and points on their licence.
“I am calling on retailers not to exploit their customers in the run-up to Christmas simply to make a profit.”
Mr Gordon said one retailer’s website states that the extended battery life of a particular e-scooter allows riders to “go anywhere”, which he believes is misleading.
“Of course we know you can’t ‘go anywhere’ because it’s illegal to use privately-owned e-scooters in a public place,” he said.
“It’s very frustrating.”
Mr Gordon added that private e-scooters have “proven to be highly dangerous” and the force has dealt with crashes where riders have “ended up seriously hurting themselves or others”.
Two Metropolitan Police officers have suffered a broken leg and a broken arm while trying to stop users acting illegally.
Recent Department for Transport figures show 131 pedestrians and 36 cyclists were injured in e-scooter crashes in Britain in the year ending June.
Private e-scooters can be extremely dangerous, and anyone deliberately misusing them will feel the full force of enforcement actionWill Norman
Three e-scooter users died and a further 729 were injured over the same period.
Dozens of legalised e-scooter rental schemes have been launched in towns and cities across Britain since July 2020 as part of Government trials, including in London in June 2021.
These involve several safety measures, such as maximum speed limits and automatic lights.
London’s walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman said there is a “woeful lack of regulation” for private e-scooters.
He continued: “We know that many people are trying to follow the rules and so it’s important that those using private e-scooters on public land are first engaged with, to make sure they understand what is and is not allowed on the streets and how they can avoid putting anyone else in danger.
“However, private e-scooters can be extremely dangerous, and anyone deliberately misusing them will feel the full force of enforcement action.”
Asked if he wants private e-scooters to be legalised for use on public roads, Mr Norman told the PA news agency: “They’re here whether we like them or not.
“We can’t uninvent them. The only real option is to bring in regulations, make them as safe as we possibly can.”
He added that police “shouldn’t be spending huge amounts of resources” trying to enforce e-scooter rules, as the devices “should be regulated”.