When Marty McFly flew on to our screens in “Back to the Future II” on a hoverboard, little did we know what lay in store some 26 years on. As the ‘must have’ Christmas present for 2015, the modern-day equivalent is causing health and safety concerns across the country with many products likely to be returned to their suppliers or thrown away. They are also believed to be involved in creating legal history in Surrey, with the allegation that a ‘hoverboard’ was used as the getaway vehicle for a supermarket theft.

Modern day equivalent

The ‘hoverboards’ in question are actually not quite the same thing as the science fiction version that appeared on the BTTF film of the late 80s.

More accurately referred to as ‘self-balancing two-wheeled boards’, the 2015 incarnation is a portable vehicle that runs on a rechargeable battery. The rider places his or her feet on two raised platforms, with a wheel at either side. Using their feet, they control the device by standing on the gyroscopic, sensored pads that are built-in.

Flying off the shelves

Sales for the ‘cool’ scooters have been significant in the busy run-up to December 25th. Reports from Ebay suggest that they sold over 5,000 units on Black Friday and a staggering one every 12 seconds on the following (Cyber) Monday. Their popularity has been fueled by images of celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner riding on them.

Metropolitan Police warning issued

Back in October of this year, a warning was issued by the Metropolitan Police regarding the scooters. They advised that it was illegal to ride them on public pavements and roads.

Viewed as a potential safety risk by many, there have been a spate of incidents in recent months whereby the boards have caught fire during the recharging process.

Salford City Council reported that they alone had seized an estimated £100,000 worth of what were regarded as “dangerous” devices from businesses in the Manchester area.

Trading Standards officers are believed to have intercepted and seized around 15,000 of the boards that have been deemed unsafe, as they entered the UK for sale.

Amazon advised customers to dispose of unsafe models

The concern around the possibility of the gadgets catching fire has sparked a response from Amazon. In an email to affected customers, the online giant has advised those who have purchased models with “non-compliant UK plugs” to take them to recycling centres for safe disposal. The company would expect to refund customers within three days.

Potential legal precedent

A curious incident involving a man from Croydon, Surrey and a ‘hoverboard’ has sparked a potential legal precedent. Omaree Lindsay allegedly attempted his getaway from the scene of a Lucozade crate snatch at a Co-op supermarket on the futuristic vehicle. He faces what is believed to be among the first prosecutions for riding such a device today.

The 19-year-old was set to appear at Wimbledon magistrates’ court to face three charges:

  • Theft
  • Failure to comply with a court order
  • Driving a self-balancing scooter on a pavement