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HQ 955347

February 18, 1994

CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 955347 RFA


TARIFF NO.: 8531.80.80

Mr. Stephen Poland
Amuze Technologies
7902 Ellipse Parkway
Fishers, IN 46038

RE: Digital Telephone Ringer; Sound Signalling Device; Telephone Bell; ENs 85.31 and 85.17

Dear Mr. Poland:

In a letter dated September 20, 1993, to the Customs District Director in Cleveland, Ohio, you inquired as to the tariff classification of digital telephone ringers under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Your letter was referred to this office for a response.


The merchandise, which is made in Hong Kong and is referred to as a digital telephone ringer, is a novelty device which connects to the telephone line and plays digitally stored messages and/or sound effects each time the telephone rings. The digital messages are programmed by the manufacturer and cannot be changed by the consumer. Messages include sound themes such as Halloween and Christmas sounds. The digital telephone ringer operates on 2 AA-batteries (not included).

When the device is plugged into the telephone jack and a telephone is plugged into the device, the device will prevent the existing telephone bell from ringing, and announce that there is a telephone call by playing one of the digitally stored messages. The device will play the message each time the telephone rings. If the batteries die, the device will automatically let the existing telephone ring. The device will also work with answering machines and voice mail systems.


Is the digital telephone ringer classifiable as a part of a telephone or as a sound signalling apparatus under the HTSUS?


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

In your letter, you indicate that the subject merchandise is designed to signal the consumer by use of the digital message that the telephone is ringing. The product thereby functions in the place of the telephone bell. Telephone apparatus is generally provided for under heading 8517, HTSUS.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN) constitute the Customs Cooperation Council's official interpretation of the HTSUS. While not legally binding, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. See 54 Fed.Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989). EN 85.17(A), page 1361, states that when bells are separately presented, they are classified in heading 8531, HTSUS.

Therefore, classification under heading 8517, HTSUS, is precluded because the subject merchandise, which is imported separately from a telephone, is designed to function in the place of a telephone bell.

Heading 8531, HTSUS, provides for electric sound or visual signalling apparatus (for example, bells, sirens, indicator panels, burglar or fire alarms), other than those of heading 8512 or 8530; parts thereof. EN 85.31, page 1381, states as follows:

With the exception of signalling apparatus used on cycles or motor vehicles. . . and that for traffic control on roads, railways, etc. . . ., this heading covers all electrical apparatus used for signalling purposes, whether using sound for the transmission of the signal (bells, buzzers, hooters, etc.) . . . , and whether operated by hand. . . or automatically. . . .

Based upon the wording of the heading and EN 85.31, we find that the digital telephone ringer is a sound signalling apparatus. It is classifiable under subheading 8531.80.80, HTSUS, which provides for other electric sound or visual signalling apparatus.


The digital telephone ringer is classifiable under subheading 8531.80.80, HTSUS, which provides for: "[e]lectric sound or visual signalling apparatus. . .: [o]ther apparatus: [o]ther. . . . The general, column one rate of duty is 2.7 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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