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HQ 088520

September 10, 1991

CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 088520 DWS


TARIFF NO.: 8531.80.00

Mr. Daniel V. Cusack
Vice President of Manufacturing
Colonial Data Technologies Corp.
80 Pickett District Rd.
New Milford, CT 06776

RE: Reconsideration of NY Ruling 858341; Telephone Caller ID Unit

Dear Mr. Cusack,

This is in response to your letter of January 10, 1991, requesting the reconsideration of NY Ruling 853251, dated December 11, 1990. In that ruling, the Area Director of the New York Seaport held that a telephone caller ID unit is classifiable under subheading 8517.81.00, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), which provides for: "[e]lectrical apparatus for line telephony or telegraphy, including such apparatus for carrier-current line systems: [o]ther apparatus: [t]elephonic: [o]ther."


The caller ID unit is a device that displays the telephone number of a calling party on a liquid crystal display (LCD). A coded representation of the calling party's telephone number is sent down the telephone line to the unit, which plugs into a standard modular wall jack. The caller's number is stored in chip memory so that, at a later time, the user of the caller ID unit can review the numbers of all parties who called his number. The unit also records the time and date of the call. The units do not function as telephones, in that they do not have a dial pad for outward dialing nor do they have handsets for sending and receiving speech. The product works entirely independent of the telephone and does not require that a telephone be attached for it to operate.


What is the proper classification of the telephone caller ID unit under the HTSUSA?


Classification of merchandise under the HTSUSA is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's), taken in order. GRI 1 provides that classification is determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative chapter or section notes.

After examination of a sample of the caller ID, New York Customs held in NY ruling 858341 that the merchandise is classifiable under subheading 8517.81.00, HTSUSA, which provides for: "[o]ther apparatus: telephonic." This decision was based on their belief that the receiving, decoding, and displaying of a telephone number on a crystal liquid display is a telephone function. Since the caller ID units are intended, adapted, and necessary for a telephone function, they concluded that the caller ID's are telephone apparatus.

Subheading 8531.80.00, HTSUSA, provides for: "[e]lectric sound or visual signaling apparatus, other than those of heading 8512 or 8530: [o]ther apparatus: [i]ndicator panels: [o]ther." In understanding heading 8531, HTSUSA, the Explanatory Notes may be utilized. The Explanatory Notes, although not dispositive, are to be used to determine the proper interpretation of the HTSUSA. 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989). Explanatory Note 85.31(D)(2) (p.1382) provides:

Number indicators. The signals appear as illuminated figures on the face of a small box; in some apparatus of this kind the calling mechanism is operated by the dial of a telephone.

Concerning the caller ID unit, we find that the language of Explanatory Note 85.31(D)(2), HTSUSA, offers guidance. The caller ID unit visually signals the numbers associated with telephone numbers by means of a flashing LCD. Furthermore, the caller ID unit is activated by the dial of a telephone which drives the LCD signal.

It is our position that, because the caller ID unit is specifically provided for under heading 8531, HTSUSA, it is precluded from classification under the "basket" provision in heading 8517, HTSUSA, which was the basis for NY Ruling 858341.


The telephone caller ID unit is classifiable under subheading 8531.80.00, HTSUSA, which provides for: "[e]lectric sound or visual signaling apparatus, other than those of heading 8512 or 8530: [o]ther apparatus: [i]ndicator panels: [o]ther." The general, column one rate of duty is 2.7 percent ad valorem. For the reasons stated above, NY Ruling 858341, dated December 11, 1990, is revoked under authority of section 177.9(d), Customs Regulations [19 CFR 177.9(d)].


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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