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HQ 952406

October 31, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 952406 MBR


TARIFF NO.: 8517.81.00

Ms. Laura Lyons
1090 East Duane Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

RE: AT&T Call Display; Telephone Caller ID Unit; Telephonic Apparatus; NEC America, Inc. v. United States; 8531; 8517

Dear Ms. Lyons:

This is in reply to your letter of July 9, 1992, requesting classification of the AT&T Call Display unit, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS).


The telephone "Call Display" 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 on 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 the user can review the information at a later date. The Call Display also records the time and date of call. The unit does not require that a telephone be attached in order to operate.


What is the classification of the telephone "Call Display," under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS)? Is it classifiable under heading 8531, HTSUS, which provides for electric sound or visual signalling apparatus, or is it classifiable under heading 8517, HTSUS, which provides for electrical apparatus for line telephony?


The General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's) to the HTSUS govern the classification of goods in the tariff schedule. GRI 1 states, in pertinent part:

...classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes...

In HQ 088520, dated September 10, 1991, we classified a similar telephone "Caller ID" unit under subheading 8531.80.00, HTSUS, which provides for: "[e]lectric sound or visual signalling apparatus, other than those of heading 8512 or 8530: [o]ther apparatus: [i]ndicator panels: [o]ther."

In HQ 088520 we cited the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) to the HTSUS, page 1382, which state:

With the exception of signalling apparatus used on cycles or motor vehicles (heading 85.12) and that for traffic control on roads, railways, etc. (heading 85.30), this heading covers all electrical apparatus used for signalling purposes, whether using sound for the transmission of the signal (bells, buzzers, hooters, etc.) or using visual indication (lamps, flaps, illuminated numbers, etc.), and whether operated by hand (e.g., door bells) or automatically (e.g., burglar alarms).

(2) 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 the telephone....

Since the "Caller ID" unit visually signals the numbers associated with telephone numbers and because the unit is activated by the dial of a telephone, we found the unit to be classifiable in heading 8531, HTSUS.

However, the court in NEC America, Inc. v. United States, 11 CIT 934 (1987), held that battery operated paging receivers were classifiable under item 685.24, TSUS, which provides for "other solid-state (tubeless) radio receivers." Item 685.70, TSUS, is the predecessor provision to heading 8531, HTSUS. The court in NEC America, citing the prior NEC America, Inc. v. United States, 8 CIT 184, 596 F. Supp. 466 (1984), stated:

After examining prior case law, the court indicated that classification under item 685.70, TSUS, was "limited to those articles whose sole purpose and function is merely signalling." Hence, the court concluded that the superior capabilities of the display pagers in issue, with their
ability to display information in digital form and to retain it for later recall, clearly "transcend merely signalling."

Therefore, it has been argued that the telephone "Call Display" is properly classifiable as telephonic apparatus. After further analysis, we agree that the functions of the Call Display, like the display pagers, transcend mere signalling by displaying information in digital form and retaining it for later recall. See HQ 952779, of this date, for the revocation of HQ 088520.


The AT&T telephone "Call Display" is classifiable in subheading 8517.81.00, HTSUS, which provides for: "[e]lectrical apparatus for line telephony...: [o]ther apparatus: [t]elephonic." The rate of duty is 8.5% ad valorem.


John Durant, Director

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