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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Qatar stores stop selling ‘hoverboards’ after government directive

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Updated Feb. 3 with a comment from Ministry of Economy and Commerce

A number of stores in Qatar have stopped selling self-balancing scooters, reportedly following a directive from the government.

All branches of Carrefour supermarket and Virgin Megastore in the country have pulled the motorized, two-wheeled balance boards/hoverboards from shelves with immediate effect and until further notice.

Carrefour put up notices last week, advising customers that it would stop selling all smart scooter products from Jan. 28.

A spokesman for the chain told Doha News that this was after receiving a notice from the Consumer Protection Department at the Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC).

“We have stopped selling these scooters in all our shops in Qatar. The reason is because there have been some incidents with them,” spokesman Benoit Vaillant said.

A supervisor at the Villaggio Mall branch of Virgin Megastore said the chain has also stopped selling the boards.

“An official from the ministry came by our Landmark store around a week ago and said we should stop selling these,” Ali Ibrahim told Doha News.

All brands of the board have been removed from sale indefinitely. The shop is not giving refunds to customers who have previously purchased the scooter, he added.

The ministry has not publicly issued any notice of the ban, however in a brief statement it said: “Scooters have been taken out of sales to make some tests regarding specifications and standards.”

Safety concerns

A hybrid between a Segway and a skateboard, self-balancing scooters were first created by US-based companies IO Hawk and Solowheel, although there have been many variations made by different companies since.

Since they gained popularity last year, the boards have become controversial due to safety issues.

Space boards banned at Ezdan Mall
Space boards banned at Ezdan Mall

By late summer, they had been banned for use in a number of malls in Doha, including  Dar Al Salaam, Ezdan, Villaggio and Landmark. This was following complaints that users were bumping into people walking in the mall.

Meanwhile, as the market became flooded with cheaper copies, there was an increasing number of reports of the scooters spontaneously combusting, prompting dozens of airlines to ban passengers and crew from taking them on board.

Ahead of the peak December travel period, Qatar Airways announced the prohibition, saying it was due to the “questionable quality” and “potential fire hazard associated with the batteries” of the vehicles.

Airwheels, solowheels, hoverboards, mini-segways and balance wheels all became restricted items and are no longer permitted as carry-on luggage or in checked baggage, the airline said.

The problem is not so much the scooters themselves as the lithium batteries they use, which can catch fire and explode.

Do you have a hoverboard? Thoughts?

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