NEW YORK More than a thousand hoverboards seized at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport were powered by counterfeit batteries that were potentially dangerous, U.S. customs officials said on Friday, highlighting concerns about the safety of the trendy devices.
Last December, officers from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized nearly 1,400 of the popular, two-wheeled, self-balancing, electric scooters at the airport.
In a statement released on Friday, the agency confirmed suspicions that the hoverboards, most of them made in China, were equipped with batteries stamped with counterfeit trademarks. The total estimated retail price of the devices is nearly $500,000, it said.
Hoverboards, a favorite gift during last year’s holiday season, have come under increased scrutiny following reports of related fires and injuries.
Customs officials teamed up with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and other federal regulatory agencies in examining the devices after their seizure.
CPSC sent a letter to importers, manufacturers and retailers asking them to comply with “voluntary safety standards,” including those related to lithium ion batteries. Failure to comply could result in seizure of the devices or a recall, a spokeswoman told Reuters.
Since last December, the consumer agency said it received reports in 24 states of 52 hoverboard fires resulting in more than $2 million in property damage, including the destruction of two homes and an automobile. There were also dozens of emergency room visits after falls and collisions involving the devices.
At least three large U.S. airlines, American Airlines Group Inc, United Continental Holdings Inc and Delta Air Lines Inc, have banned hoverboards in carry-on and checked baggage out of safety considerations.
A spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates JFK and other regional airports, said hoverboards are banned both inside and outside its facilities.
(Editing by Frank McGurty and Leslie Adler)