In 1998, the Furby was the must-have Christmas toy. In 2009, that honor went to Zhu Zhu pets. However, with Christmas 2015 just weeks away, the must-have tech gadget of the season might be under a lot fewer trees than first thought.
The New York Times reported that the hoverboard — which neither hovers nor is a board — has been lighting sales charts on fire throughout the holiday shopping season and even a little bit earlier than that, but many retailers, including Amazon, have begun to cease sales of the popular gizmos due to safety defects that can cause shoddy models to combust. Several social media videos have shown users’ hoverboards setting off into flames during normal usage, and Elliot F. Kaye, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, told NYT that hoverboards have been attributed to at least 29 emergency room visits and 11 fires in 10 states ahead of Christmas.
“We’re particularly sensitive to the fact that many have been purchased and wrapped,” Kaye said.
While there are still some sellers allowed to hawk hoverboards on Amazon, the pressure against them is clearly mounting. Engagdet reported that several airlines have banned the devices from traveling on board their planes, as the threat of a spontaneous fire mid-flight is a risk no carrier would be willing to take.
What’s behind the sudden rise in catastrophic hoverboard failures? Kaye explained how the rush in popularity, alongside hoverboards’ usually high price point, brought so many manufacturers into the field to make a quick buck that few were as concerned about the quality of their construction. As a result, consumers who buy a perfectly functioning model at first find out that it was never put together to last more than a few hovers around the block.
“[Hoverboards] don’t all look the same inside,” Kaye told NYT. “It looks like there might be overcharging, too many batteries stacked together in ways that lithium-ion batteries are not meant to be stacked."