PH ban on hoverboards? DTI, DOH to probe safety concerns

MANILA, Philippines – Amid concerns aired by various users at home and abroad, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Health (DOH) will look into the regulation of hoverboards, a popular Christmas present.

The DTI and the DOH have formed a panel to discuss possible recommendations to ensure the safety of users of these self-balancing devices, DTI Officer-in-Charge Undersecretary Victorio Dimagiba said in an interview on ANC on Tuesday, December 29.

Dimagiba said the panel, which will meet in January, may take two weeks to come up with recommendations on the device.

"We will have to conduct a thorough investigation, what are the safety concerns of the use of these devices as well as what are the probable regulations that we will require," he said in the interview.

Total ban mulled

Dimagiba said that under the government standards on toys, only electronic toys running on 24 volts can be used by children below 14 years old. The hoverboard, he added, is powered by at least 36 volts.  

"Most likely, offhand, we may require a very strict warning and labeling requirement that it [hoverboard] is for 14 years old and above. Second, that there must be a warning on where to charge its battery, whether it will be in open spaces or not," he added.

Asked whether it is possible to impose a ban on hoverboard sales in the country, Dimagiba said the Consumer Act authorizes the government to do this.

"Banning the use of hoverboards in case the safety issue is not addressed is an option under Article 10 of the Consumer Act," he said.

Dimagiba said the DTI-DOH panel will also consider whether the government will require import clearances for the toy. "At the moment, they enter the Philippine market without any DOH or DTI clearances," he added.

Safety concerns

Hoverboards – which first appeared in the 1989 film Back to the Future II – have been selling like hotcakes this Christmas season despite being priced from P15,000 ($318.50) to P22,000 ($467.14) per unit. 

The device, however, has been hounded by safety issues after some units were found to be prone to overheating – some have even exploded – prompting other countries to impose strict regulations on its sales and importation.  

Digital Trends earlier reported that online retail giant Amazon pulled out hoverboards from its list of products following reports that  the device had burst into flames.

In London, 90% of the hoverboards imported into the country have been seized since October, said a CNN report.

The DTI said it has not yet received complaints or incidents concerning the device. But Philippine carriers have already banned these self-balancing devices.

Last week, Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have prohibited passengers from bringing hoverboards both as check-in and hand-carried items.

"These devices pose a fire hazard risk and are deemed unsafe for transport especially in aircraft’s pressurized cabin and cargo stowage spaces," Cebu Pacific said in a previous statement.

Hoverboard sellers have said, however, that those that pose safety problems are mere replicas of the original or branded ones.

Retailer Myeth Ramos has warned that there are online sellers who hawk replicas of hoverboards at cheap prices, or below P10,000 ($212).

She also reminded fellow sellers that it is their responsibility to inform their customers of the safety precautions in using hoverboards – Rappler.com  

US$1 = P47