New UL Safety Standard brings Hope to the U.S. Hoverboard Market

In December 2015 self-balancing scooters (also known as “hoverboards”) became the hottest holiday gift of the year and also became famous for catching on fire. Safety risks can prevent the import of goods into the U.S., and thousands of hoverboards were seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). 

From December 1, 2015, through February 17, 2016, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) received reports from consumers in 24 states, of 52 hoverboard fires. During this time, at least 30 colleges partially or completely banned hoverboards from campuses due to safety concerns. Large retailers, such as Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target, pulled hoverboards from store shelves. The commonly believed source of the fires was the large lithium-ion battery installed in the hoverboard.

Initially, the products were not seized specifically for safety concerns, rather, CPB seized the goods under its authority to prevent counterfeit goods from entering the U.S. The products seized included counterfeit certification trademarks of the standards organization Underwriters Laboratories (UL). 

In fact, all the UL safety certification marks for hoverboards shown on product during the 2015 holiday were fake because no UL safety certification standard existed. Although UL for years certified safety standards for battery cells, and packs as well as related battery chargers, as of the 2015 holiday season, there was no UL certification standard for an entire hoverboard product with an installed lithium-ion battery.

On February 2, 2016, UL announced a new safety certification standard for hoverboards, UL 2272, that had the appropriate requirements for testing the entire hoverboard for fire-hazard safety as a system. 

On February 18, 2016, the CPSC announced that hoverboards that do not meet the new UL standard UL 2272 were deemed unsafe. The CPSC explained that hoverboards not meeting UL 2272 would be seized upon import. Therefore, after the February 18th, CPSC announcement, hoverboards could be seized at customs because they were violative, unsafe products, regardless of the existence of any infringing trademarks.

Although UL 2272 may not address all the safety risks and potential product liability issues(for example, fall risks), hoverboards, as we know them today, certified to UL 2272 should not be seized upon import into the U.S. due to the risk of fire.

For Further Information:

[PODCAST] Barbara Guthrie of UL Explains New Safety Standards for Hoverboards, Masters of Disaster, March 7, 2016.

[PODCAST] Cell Phones to Hoverboards: Tim Cassidy Explains the Complexity and History of Managing the Risks of Lithium Ion Batteries, Masters of Disaster, February 29, 2016.

UL Announces Availability of UL Certification Standard for Hoverboards, UL.com, February 2, 2016

Statement from U.S. CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye on the Safety of Hoverboards and the Status of the Investigation, cpsc.gov, January 20, 2016.

[PDF] Self-Balancing Scooters Letter, CPSC.gov, February 18, 2016.

[Website] CPSC Import Safety, CPSC.gov