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HQ 960786

May 14, 1998

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 960786 PH


TARIFF NO.: 8301.10.60; 8536.50.90

Ms. Brigitta Miranda-Freer
Winner International
Winner Building
32 West State Street
Sharon, Pennsylvania 16146

RE: Reconsideration of NY B86871; "Power Lock"; padlocks and locks; other electronic switches; GRI 3(a); ENs GRI

Dear Ms. Miranda-Freer:

This is in response to your letter of July 15, 1997, to Customs in New York, New York, requesting reconsideration of NY B86871 dated July 1, 1997, concerning the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) of an article called a "Power Lock." A sample and descriptive literature were provided. Your letter was referred to this office for reply. We regret the delay in responding to your request.


The article consists of a plastic housing, 4.4 centimeters long and 2.8 centimeters wide, with two slots into which the prongs of an electrical plug fit. The housing contains a key-operated lock, of cylinder construction, made of base metal. After the prongs of an electrical plug have been inserted into the article, the user turns the key 90 degrees counterclockwise and removes it, thus locking in the electric plug. Two keys are provided with the article. The descriptive literature describes the article as "fit[ting] all standard plug sizes[,] grounded or polarized" and "perfect to lock up power tools, appliances, TV's

In NY B86871 Customs determined the essential character of the article to be provided by the locking mechanism of base metal and classified the article under the provision for padlocks and locks of base metal, of cylinder or pin tumbler construction, not over 3.8 centimeter in width, in subheading 8301.10.60, HTSUS. You contend that the function of the article is "... to stop power by locking out power plugs, thus preventing the completion of an electrical circuit" and classification should be under the provision for switches, plugs, sockets, etc. You refer to heading 8536, HTSUS.

The competing subheadings are as follows:

8301.10.60: Padlocks and locks (key, combination or electrically operated), of base metal; clasps and frames with clasps, incorporating locks, of base metal; keys and parts of any of the foregoing articles, of base metal: Padlocks: ... Of cylinder or pin tumbler construction: Not over 3.8 cm in width.

The 1998 general column one rate of duty for goods classifiable under this subheading is 6.1% ad valorem.

8536.50.90: Electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electrical circuits, or for making connections to or in electrical circuits (for example, switches, relays, fuses, surge suppressors, plugs, sockets, lamp-holders, junction boxes), for a voltage not exceeding 1,000 [volts]: ... Other switches: ... Other: ... Other.

The 1998 general column one rate of duty for goods classifiable under this subheading is 3.2% ad valorem.


Whether the "Power Lock" is classifiable as a padlock or lock of base metal in subheading 8301.10.60, HTSUS, or other electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electrical circuits in subheading 8536.50.90, HTSUS.


Classification of merchandise under the HTSUS is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that classification is determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. GRI 3(a) provides that "[w]hen ... goods are, prima facie, classifiable under two or more headings ... [t]he heading which provides the most specific description shall be preferred to headings providing a more general description. ..."

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System. While not legally binding on the contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System and are thus useful in ascertaining the classification of merchandise. Customs believes the ENs should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80, published in the Federal Register August 23, 1989 (54 FR 35127, 35128).

EN GRI 3(a)(IV) provides, in part, that:

It is not practicable to lay down hard and fast rules by which to determine whether one heading more specifically describes the goods than another, but in general it may be said that ... [a] description by name is more specific than a description by class (e.g., shavers and hair clippers, with self-contained electric motor, are classified in heading 85.10 and not in heading 85.08 as electro-mechanical tools for working in the hand or in heading 85.09 as electro-mechanical domestic appliances with self-contained electric motor). ...

EN 83.01 provides, in part, that:

This heading covers fastening devices operated by a key (e.g.,, locks of the cylinder, lever, tumbler or Bramah types) ... [and] therefore covers, inter alia: (A) [p]adlocks of all types for doors, trunks, chests, bags, cycles, etc., including key-operated locking hasps [and] (B) [l]ocks for doors or gates, letter boxes, safes, boxes or caskets, furniture, pianos, trunks, suit-cases, handbags, dispatch-cases, etc.; for automobiles, railway rolling-stock, tramcars, etc.; for lifts, shutters, sliding doors, etc.

EN 85.36 provides that the heading includes apparatus for switching electrical circuits, protecting electrical circuits, and making connections to or in electrical circuits, as well as parts thereof. The EN describes the first kind of apparatus as "... consist[ing] essentially of devices for making or breaking one or more circuits in which they are connected, or for switching from one circuit to another ..." The second kind of apparatus includes fuses and other devices for preventing the overload of circuits, and the third is described as being "used to connect together the various parts of an electrical circuit." The examples given for each kind of apparatus consist of articles through which electricity may flow (e.g., switches for use in radio apparatus, domestic electrical wiring, and starting electric motors, relays, contactors (devices for making and breaking electrical circuits), fuses, circuit breakers, plugs, sockets, connectors, terminals, and junction boxes).

Clearly, the article under consideration is described by heading 8301 (a padlock or lock operated by key of cylinder construction) and EN 83.01 (a fastening device operated by a key). The article does not meet the description in EN 85.36 of articles included in heading 8536, in that it does not make or break one or more circuit in which it is connected, it does not prevent the overload of circuits, and it is not used to connect together parts of an electrical circuit. It differs from the examples in EN 85.36 in that electricity may not flow through it; instead it physically prevents a plug from being inserted into a socket so that electricity may flow and it must be removed before that can happen. In regard to the latter, we note the statement in EN 85.36 that "[j]unction boxes not fitted with means of electrical connection, but used solely as a protective cover or to hold an insulating compound over a joint made independently, are not covered here ...." Similarly, the "Power Lock" is not fitted with a means of electrical connection but is used solely as a protective cover over a plug.

Finally, even if the article were described by heading 8536 (and we conclude that it is not), the description in heading 8301 (padlocks and locks of base metal) clearly provides a more specific description as to the article than that in heading 8536 (electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electrical circuits, or for making connections to or in electrical circuits). See, in this regard, the example in EN GRI 3(a)(IV) (shavers and hair clippers with a self-contained electrical motor in heading 8510 is more specific than electro-mechanical tools for working in the hand in heading 8508 or electro-mechanical domestic appliances with a self-contained electric motor in heading 8509).


The "Power Lock" is classifiable as a padlock or lock of base metal in subheading 8301.10.60, HTSUS.


NY B86871 is affirmed.


John Durant, Director,
Commercial Rulings Division

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